Amy Yang wins Women’s PGA Championship

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SAMMAMISH, Wash
It was quite a sight to behold. Amy Yang with arms outstretched, doused in a torrential downpour of champagne by her friends and fellow countrywomen on the 18th green at Sahalee Country Club, victorious for the very first time at a major championship in her 75th career start.
No win could have tasted sweeter than this for Yang, who has come oh-so-close in major championships on a number of other occasions. Before today’s victory, the Republic of Korea native had recorded 11 top-five finishes in major tournaments, finishing runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012 and 2015, always just one putt here or one shot there away from getting to etch her name alongside the game’s greatest talents.
Understandably, doubt had started to creep into the 34-year-old’s mind.
Yang’s coach once told her that someone said to him that she would never win a major, something that cut deeper than she ever could have imagined. “Those words always remained in my heart,” she said. “I was so sorry about that.”
That uncertainty even crept in during today’s final round, internal noise that Yang did her best to block out coming down the stretch with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title on the line.
“That self-talk kept coming up and wasn’t easy out there,” said Yang. “But I’ve learned so many times to focus on what I can control on the golf course out there and keep doing what I’ve been doing. I told myself maybe more than a thousand times out there just do what I prepared and what you’ve been doing at the practice days.”
That thought process resonated, and Yang hung tough, even after slip-ups on 16 and 17 threatened her lead on Sunday. And while she played some spectacular golf over the last four days, it was Yang’s mental fortitude throughout the week that ultimately lifted her to victory in Washington.
“I was so at the nervous beginning of the day, even night before, and I told Jan (Meierling, her caddie) on the 18th fairway, this has been the longest 18 holes I ever played in my career,” Yang admitted. “I was that much stressed and felt pressure out there. But I think I managed to stay well and stay positive, and of course, with him as well. He makes things light out there.
“At one point, I thought will I ever win a major championship before I retire, and I finally did it, and it’s just amazing.”
When Yang and Meierling won the CME Group Tour Championship together last November, the group waiting with the celebratory champagne was a big one, comprised of LPGA Tour players and caddies alike, ready to celebrate their friends’ triumph at one of the biggest events on the schedule.
But on Sunday at Sahalee, the crowd sitting behind the 18th green with bubbly in hand was twice as big and could barely contain their excitement as they watched their friends once again win on the LPGA Tour.
This time, though, the victory meant more – for Amy, for Jan, for everyone rooting them on – as Yang had finally achieved her lifelong dream, a goal that had kept her playing a lot longer than maybe she had intended at this point in her professional golf career.
“I proved to myself that I can do this, and I’ll continue to work hard and go for the next one,” said Yang. “Our team, we do the best we can. Some days golf feels so easy and feels so fun. Other days, it feels like I want to retire very soon. I remember I told (Jan) I lose motivation here and there, but that’s a lie. I still do enjoy playing a lot.”
To the victor go the spoils, and not only did Yang collect a $1.56 million check and 650 Race to the CME Globe points, but she also earned a spot on the Olympic team for the Republic of Korea. It will be the second time that Yang has gotten to represent her country in the Games, as she finished in a tie for fourth in Brazil in 2016.
And even though she has been close to qualifying for the team all season, Yang had no idea her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory earned her a spot in the field at Le Golf National until she was told the news during a live interview on the Golf Channel set.
“I wasn’t aware of it because I really wanted to represent South Korea. That was one of my biggest goals for this year,” explained Yang. “(I’ve been) missing cuts the past few tournaments, and I saw my world ranking went down, so I wasn’t sure if this winning was enough to make the team. But I made it, so I’m very grateful for that.”
While playing her way into the Olympics is special, that won’t be Yang’s takeaway from her win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Her ability to come up clutch in the big moment and persevere through close call after close call will always stick out to the 34-year-old, providing her with plenty of positive energy to carry forward into her Olympic berth, the next two major championships and the rest of the 2024 season.
“I thought about this out on the golf course today, that golf is really just a fight against myself,” Yang said. “I think I proved to myself that I can compete, and I can do this, so it was a good learning week.”
The trees tell the stories of Sahalee, and one has to wonder what they’ll say about Amy Yang’s win the next time a major championship makes a stop in Sammamish.
Maybe they’ll talk about her birdies, or her resiliency coming down the stretch, or that incredible champagne shower on the 18th green.
Either way, this “high heavenly ground” has a new chapter in its storied history, one of triumph and exaltation as one player, through injury, doubt and setback, finally saw their dreams realized, something well worth the years-long wait.