Minji Kang wins Georgia Women’s Amateur in four-hole playoff

Minji Kang holds the Eleanor Keeler Trophy given to the winner of the 2022 Georgia Women's Amateur Championship.

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Minji Kang holds the Eleanor Keeler Trophy given to the winner of the 2022 Georgia Women's Amateur Championship.

Two years ago Minji Kang left South Korea to pursue her dreams of becoming a great golfer. On Wednesday, she took another step toward that goal by winning the 93rd Georgia Women’s Amateur Championship in a four-hole sudden death playoff at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth.

Kang finished with a 2-under 70 in the final round, leaving her at 5-under 211. But Kate Owens of Suwanee, a senior at James Madison University, eagled the last hole to move into a tie and force extra holes.

The playoff hole was conducted on the famous risk-reward 18th hole with water in front of the green. Each had their chances. Kang was able to recover after leaving a shot in the greenside bunker. Owens was able to keep playing when Kang missed a 5-footer that would have ended it.

The decider came on the fourth extra hole. Owens hit her tee shot into the hay in the crook of the hole’s dogleg. She hacked it out and nearly made birdie, but this time Kang rolled in the short birdie putt to end the drama.

“I was trying to play my game today,” Kang said. “To be honest, it was very nervous. The first hole I was very nervous, but the other holes I was fine.”

Defending champion Jenny Bae from the University of Georgia finished third at 3-under 213. Abby Newton of Stateboro and Georgia Southern and Thienna Huynh of Lilburn, a UNLV commit, tied for fourth at 2 under.

Owens, who began the day with a two-shot lead over Kang, had a horrible front nine. It included two double bogeys, and she shot a 41. But a birdie on the ninth hole turned the momentum, and her final nine holes included a pair of eagles as she shot 31 on the back.

“Obviously didn’t get off to the best start,” Owens said. “But I’m really, really proud of the last 12 holes. That’s some of the best golf I’ve ever played.”

Kang was steady all day. She made few mistakes and was able to recover from those. Among the most important came at No. 12, where her tee shot went left and was blocked by a tree. She pitched out, made par and kept her round going.

Kang won the NAIA women’s individual championship this spring at Truett-McConnell. To add the state’s oldest amateur title was another step in the right direction. She plans to try her hand at the LPGA qualifying school later this summer or will return to Truett-McConnell in the fall.

Owens will take her COVID-19 season and return to James Madison. Owens twice has won the Georgia Top 60 Women’s Classic and this spring teamed up with Ivy Shepherd to win the Georgia Women’s Four-Ball Championship.

The Burns Cup, given to the low senior, went to Georgia Golf Hall of Famer Laura Coble, who has won the Georgia Women’s Amateur six times.