HOUSTON—Megan Khang enters this weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open in a tie for third and just four strokes off the lead of Japan’s Hinako Shibuno. A victory would be the first of her career after she turned pro five years ago.
That’s hardly the most incredible part of her story.
To say that the 23-year-old’s road to professional golf is different than the other 154 competitors in the field would be something of an understatement. Her path was marked in blood.
Though Khang was born in Massachusetts and learned the game from her father, Lee, and at the age of 14 qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, she wouldn’t be here at all if not for her family’s treacherous escape from Laos and communist death squads targeting the Hmong during the Vietnam War.
“I know I wouldn’t be here without the sacrifices my family has made,” Khang told GolfChannel.com in 2017, recounting the harrowing journey her family took across the Mekong River to Thailand in 1975. “It’s us against the world. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
Then there’s how Khang came to be introduced to the game.
Her father, who eventually reached the U.S. at age 8, taught himself to play golf—at the age of 32—by reading the pages of Golf Digest and watching videos on YouTube. He never took a lesson, quit his job as a mechanic and is the only coach Megan has ever had.
There are weeks such as this when all the sacrifices and work are more than worth it.
A day after Khang got off to a torrid start in the first round with four birdies in her first five holes, but made a disastrous double bogey at 18, the 5-foot-1 dynamo bounced back with a bogey-free 69 on Friday.
That she couldn’t even remember which holes she birdied (answer: the par-4 second and 15th), didn’t really matter. Nor does it that she’s never won a professional tournament (though she did contend in two majors last year, the Evian Championship and Women’s PGA Championship).
And as for her strategy the rest of the weekend?
“Kind of stay where we are and just keep doing what we’ve been doing and just kind of stay in the moment,” she said. “I want to enjoy—it’s the 75th U.S. Women’s Open, and you don’t get a lot of them.”