Former Sun Devil Jimin Kang Wins LPGA Corning Classic

May 31, 2005

CORNING, N.Y. - Story reprinted courtesy of www.lpga.com

LPGA Corning Classic
Corning Country Club
Corning, N.Y.
May 28, 2005

Kang ends LPGA Corning Classic with a bang
Overcomes late bogey with hole-in-one for her first LPGA Tour victory

How do you wipe out a three-shot deficit in the final round? Ask Jimin Kang. She fired six-under par 66 in the final round to win the LPGA Corning Classic at 15-under par and become the third Rolex First-Time Winner on the LPGA Tour in 2005 and cash a check of $165,000.

On top of coming back, Kang knocked off Annika Sorenstam, holding the world's top-ranked player without a win for just the second time this season.

'Honestly, I'm trying to feel it,' Kang said about her first win. 'Okay, I just won the tournament, I looked at the score board, my name is at the top of the leaderboard and it's not coming yet. I hope it comes soon. Once the check goes into my bank, I might feel it!'

After suffering a bogey at the 14 th hole to go from a holding a one-shot lead to trailing playing partner by Meena Lee by a shot, Kang had her work cut out for her.

All she did was knock in a nine-iron from 125 yard on the par-3 15 th hole for the fourth hole-in-one of the tournament to regain a share of the lead and followed with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16 th to take a one shot over Lee entering the final two holes.

' I gripped a 9-iron,' Kang said, describing the memorable ace. 'I gripped it a lot. Hit it solid, and I think it bounced, one bounce in, twice, I couldn't tell. You wonder why I wear glasses.'

Lee, who had birdied four straight from 11 through 14, came up with a clutch birdie at the 17 th to go to the 72 nd hole tied at 15-under par.

With the honors, Lee pulled out her driver and pushed her tee shot off into the left rough. Kang then pulled out her 3-wood and placed her drive in the fairway.

Lee tried to get to the green, but came up about 25 yards short and found the rough again. Kang meanwhile knocked her second shot into the middle of the green about 25 feet away for birdie.

Desperately trying to get up and down, Lee's third shot rolled through the green and found the gnarly rough on the back side of the 18 th green. Her shot for par was short and she two-putted for a double bogey to fall back to 13-under.

Kang (69-70-68-66=273) stayed cool, calm and collected as she rolled her birdie opportunity just short of the hole and tapped in for par and the win at 15-under par.

' I guess this is really great encouragement that I see myself with the hope that I can play some golf,' Kang said. 'I just love being out here. Seriously, I just love to play golf, especially competing with all these ladies. It's a blessing, I love it.'

Despite the final hole, Lee was upbeat with her second place finish.

' I am a young player and this was my first time in contention,' Lee said. 'Me being young cost me today. I will have more chances.'

Kang's comeback was driven by a fast start on Sunday, making four birdies on the outward nine to get to 13-under par, but she remained two shots behind third round leader Karine Icher.

Icher had taken advantage of the stormy conditions that plagued the weekend, finishing her second round on Saturday morning with two birdies to lead at the midway point at eight-under par.

But Icher ran into a load of problems on the back nine on Sunday, carding three double bogeys over the final nine holes to fall out of contention and finish in a tie for sixth at 10-under par.

Despite not feeling well all week, Annika Sorenstam (69-68-69-69=275) but up a brave defense of her title from a year ago. The world's top-ranked player carded four rounds in the 60s, but couldn't deliver that knockout run of birdies that she is famous for. Sorenstam finished in a tie for second with Lee at 13-under par.

'I did have a chance, but I think I made a few too many mistakes on the front nine,' Sorenstam said. 'Obviously I wish I would have felt a little better so I could have given it a little more, but I didn't have much more to give. It's just one of those times where the timing wasn't right to get a cold. It's unfortunate, but again, you have to congratulate the winner, who played excellent.'

Jimin Kang, 69-70-68-66=273 (-15)

Scorecard: Hole 2, 446-yard par 5: birdie - 4-iron to left bunker, blast to six feetHole 5, 449-yard par 5: birdie - 4-iron short of the green, chip to three feetHole 8, 345-yard par 4: birdie - 52-degree wedge to four feetHole 9, 364-yard par 4: birdie - 7-iron to 16 feetHole 10, 364-yard par 4: bogey - pushed drive into bunker, blast to left rough beside the green, chipped to five feet, two-puttHole 12, 465-yard par 5: birdie - 3-wood short of the green, chip to three feetHole 14, 510-yard par 5: bogey - 8-iron to four feet for birdie, three-puttHole 15, 125-yard par 3: hole-in-one - 9-iron from 125 yardsHole 16, 304-yard par 4: birdie - 9-iron to 12 feet

Re: The hole-in-one on 15
Jimin Kang: No. 15, Meena Lee made a birdie putt, I went second. She hit a great shot. She hit to five feet short of the pin. And I told her, 'That's a little bit short, huh?' She didn't respond. Maybe she didn't understand me. It's a tournament. Nobody really pays attention to what people say. I gripped a 9-iron. I gripped it a lot. Yeah, gripped a 9-iron, hit it solid, and I think it bounced, one bounce in, twice, I couldn't tell. You wonder why I wear glasses.

Re: Thoughts after winning her first career LPGA title in dramatic fashion?
Jimin Kang: No kidding. Honestly, I'm trying to feel it. Okay, I just won the tournament, I looked at the score board, my name is at the top of the leaderboard and it's not coming yet. I hope it comes soon. Once the check goes into my bank, I might feel it.

Re: Emotion swing after bogey on 14 and ace on 15
Jimin Kang: No. 14, I just keep talking to myself, I keep mumbling to myself on the back of the left corner of the green, 'Jimin, it's okay. It's only golf. It' only a game. I can do the 3-putts. It's fine. Just move on. Just putt it. It will be fine.' That's what I said, and I think it worked.

Re: Thinking of winning after hole-in-one
Jimin Kang: You know, actually I didn't really think about winning, because I couldn't see the score board, but that's excitement, you know. I have to 3-putt for the bogey and holding on during the tournament. I'm like, man, it must be my day.

Re: Was helpful not thinking about being in the lead
Jimin Kang: Actually, I thought about it last night. I was hoping I didn't look up at the score boards. Today, I think I was a little busy playing to look up. It must be a good thing.

Re: When she knew she had the lead
Jimin Kang: No. 17, on the green. There is a board. I saw my name and her name is at the top. I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm at the top.'

Re: Strategy on 18 after Lee hit her tee shot in the rough
Jimin Kang: I always go with the 3-wood there, because I hit it far enough, I think.

Re: Thinking about Annika Sorenstam during the day
Jimin Kang: Not much. I told you, I was too busy playing my own game today.

Re: Having fun today
Jimin Kang: I think I had enough fun today. Can't you tell?

Re: Whether she was surprised by the early success in her career
Jimin Kang: I'm not a rookie. This is my third year. I tried to play, because I had a nonexempt status in 2003 and 2004, so I tried to play in 2003 and it didn't work out that way. So I decided to play the Futures Tour so I could play more events, and earn my status from there for the Q-School. I guess I look younger than my age, huh? I'm 25 years old.

Re: Where this round ranks in her career
Jimin Kang: I guess this is really great encouragement that I see myself with the hope that I can play some golf. I just want to see -- I just love being out here. Seriously, I just love to play golf, especially competing with all these ladies. It's a blessing, I love it.

Re: Korean LPGA Tour players being serious on the course
Jimin Kang: I think it depends how they grow up, the different culture.

Re: Her celebration after the hole-in-one
Jimin Kang: I don't think it was this. I think I was just jumping around. I don't think I want to see that.

Re: Her upbeat attitude
Jimin Kang: I don't know. It's just me. Because I was like that when I was in Korea, too. Since I came to the States, it's developed more. That's just how I am.

Re: Whether someone had to quiet her down when she was young
Jimin Kang: When I was in Korea I was more quiet. Since I came to the States, I think I started to go more outgoing, easy going.

Re: Three Korean players in contention
Jimin Kang: It's definitely encouraging. I won. What do you expect? You don't know until you sign the score card and turn it in. Nobody really expected that I would win, I'm pretty sure. It's like, 'Surprise, you won the whole thing.'

Re: Whether she thought about the penalty on No. 14 yesterday
Jimin Kang: Because nobody really saw it. I was the only one who saw it. If I want to play well, I have to go, you know what, my ball moved, I want a rules official. I want to make it clear it was there.

Re: Struggles on No. 14
Jimin Kang: It's okay. I'll make it up sometime.

Re: Sense of relief when Lee got in trouble off No. 18 tee
Jimin Kang: Definitely. I was like, Oh, she pushed her driver. I just have to get a par here.

Re: Large galleries and media attention
Jimin Kang: I love it. I love people around me. I love galleries cheering me. I love it. I really enjoy it.

Re: Being the second player to win a tournament that Sorenstam is in this year
Jimin Kang: I didn't know. Good to know. Like I say, it's golf. She is a great golfer, but it's not a guarantee she is going to win. She may do her best to win. But who knows, it's golf, right?

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