CHASKA, Minn. (June 21, 2019) – Jimin Kang rolled back the clock Friday at Hazeltine National Golf Club in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, posting a 2-under-par 70 to make her first cut since 2014 and climb into contention in the 35th major of a rollercoaster career.
The 39-year-old Kang, whose LPGA Tour momentum was stalled in 2013 by medical issues resulting from overmedication for allergies, is tied for seventh heading into Saturday’s third round.
“Last week I got a chance to catch up with Se Ri Pak, and I told her that ‘I’m going to play golf again,’” said Kang of her meeting the World Golf Hall of Famer, who is two years her senior. “She said, ’You’ve played enough.’ I said, ‘I haven’t done enough yet.’ That is the reason that drove me.”
With her 1-under-par 143 total for 36 holes, Kang also holds a unique position in the field.
On Sunday, she will capture the Low Club Professional title and receive a crystal bowl regardless of how she finishes over the final 36 holes. Kang was the lone member of a nine-player delegation of PGA and LPGA Club Professionals to make the cut of 149.
Her honor this weekend deserves more explanation.
The native of Seoul, South Korea, came to America at age 16. She finished runner-up in the 1999 U.S. Amateur, attended Arizona State University and turned professional in 2002. She spent six years under the tutelage of the late legendary Jim Flick and she still receives pointers from another premier coach, two-time PGA Champion Dave Stockton. She owns tour victories in the 2005 LPGA Corning Classic and the 2010 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Following a lengthy bout with a misdiagnosis and over-medication for moderate allergies, Kang took time away from golf in 2013. She returned to Arizona State to complete her degree in Communications and Family & Human Development. She then competed in 2014 and 2015 on the Symetra Tour.
“I realized at one point that I wasn't swinging the golf club; the club was swinging me,” said Kang. “I thought this is not the way I should do it. I pushed myself over the limit of what a human being can do.
“That's the one point I thought like OK, I need to really take care of myself and look for my health to get better. Then I couldn't do anything -- so I decided to go back to school. I didn't know studying would take that much strength. I thought it was just sitting at a desk and study. I didn't know it takes that much energy. So, while I was in a study mode I asked myself why don't I get this (LPGA Class Membership) done, too?
“That's when I got into the teaching. I thought it was a great opportunity for myself – to teach. It was such a great experience.”
For the record, this will be Kang's first made cut in a major championship since 2014. “It means happy hour after this,” Kang laughed. “Except, I don’t drink. My happy hours are to go out and eat and have fun.”