by Dave Andrews
When 18-year-old Megan Khang of Rockland, Massachusetts tees it up in January in the Bahamas in the LPGA’s first event of the 2016 season, it will be her first event as a new LPGA rookie, and she will be the very first player of Hmong and Laotian descent to ever compete on the LPGA tour.
The teenage amateur sensation who turned pro just before the final stage of the 2015 LPGA Q-School became one of 20 players to earn a full status card on the tour at the conclusion of the grueling five-day tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida. With her father Lee on her bag and her mother Nou following in the gallery of spectators, Megan finished the tournament in a tie for 6th place with a five-day score of 9 under par (69-72-68-70-72-351).
Megan’s parents both came to the United States as young children in the 1970’s as refugees from the war in Laos. Years later they met and married and settled in Brockton, Massachusetts where Megan was born in 1997. Lee is an auto mechanic. He took up the game of golf and began teaching Megan how to play the game when she was just five years old. He has been her sole instructor ever since.
“The strongest part of Megan’s game is from tee to green,” he said. “Despite her small size, she is able to compress the ball, giving much more power and distance with all of her clubs. She is a very good putter also, but there is always room for improvement in the putting game.”
Megan’s natural talent and love for the game quickly became apparent when she was a young girl. In 2008 when she was just a seventh grader she won the women’s club championship at her home course in Rockland. An impressive list of accomplishments and victories would follow in the years to come in her junior amateur golf competitions. Almost incredibly she qualified to play in three of the last four United States Women’s Opens, in 2012, 2014, and 2015, making her first appearance in the prestigious event when she was only 14 years old. In this year’s Open, at just 17, she was the highest finishing amateur, coming in 35th in a field that included most of the top-ranked women professionals in the world. This past summer she went on to help lead the American team to victory over Europe in the Junior Solheim Cup competition in Germany.
While in high school (she graduated last June) Megan was heavily recruited by coaches at several of the best college golf programs in the country. However during a visit at one highly-ranked college, the coach told her and her parents that if she was determined to make it to the LPGA playing in college would not help her in her career. He said her game was already good enough to be competitive against with the best professionals in the world. Megan played very well in the first two stages of LPGA Q-School earlier this year. Just before this month’s final stage she, with her parents’ support, made the decision to turn professional.
Megan was one of five teenagers to finish in the top 20 at Q-School and earn a full status LPGA card for 2016. The top players in women’s golf are seemingly getting younger and younger every year. Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, and Brooke Henderson, who also opted to turn pro rather than attend college, have proven that teens can win and compete consistently on the tour. Megan hopes she can add her name to the impressive list of teenage LPGA champions in 2016. She will be playing on the biggest stage in the world, trying to become one of the next big stars of the women’s game.
“My goal is to one day be the number one player in the world,” she said earlier this year. Her father says the first year on the tour will be a big learning experience for her. He will be on her bag as he has been to this point.
“We are just going to take it one event at a time. My wife and I are not going to put any pressure on her,” he said. “Ideally, we hope she can do well enough to secure her status for the following season so we won’t have to worry about returning to qualifying school and can focus on playing on the LPGA for many years to come.”
Megan Khang has come farther than most in her 18 years. It will be exciting to see just how far she can go in her new professional career on the LPGA.
* Photo credits – Featured image Megan Khang PGA Junior Series. All other photos: Dave Andrews
Dave Andrews is a retired television news reporter. He is also an avid golfer who has become a big fan and frequently caddies for the rising US and International golf stars of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.
He is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about a young woman pro’s dream and struggle to make it to the LPGA.
The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. The novel is available at Kindle Ebooks.
Follow Dave online on Twitter @PopsandSunshine.