Posted: July 11, 2015 11:48 pm
Lee Khang was among the first members of his family to come to the United States back in the mid-1970s. It’s a move his parents put in motion by applying for a sponsorship in the U.S. when they realized it was no longer safe to live in Laos, just north of Vietnam, during the height of the Vietnam War.
“There were bullets flying near our house,” said Yer Khang, Lee’s brother.
A woman living in Massachusetts eventually picked up the Khang family as a sponsor of the seven foreign nationals when Lee came to the U.S. with his mom, dad, and four siblings.
They’re all officially U.S. citizens now. And most of them have been in attendance this week at Lancaster Country Club, where Lee Khang is serving as the caddie for his daughter, amateur Megan Khang, in the U.S. Women’s Open.
A recent graduate of Rockland (Massachusetts) High School, Megan Khang had the best two rounds of any amateur on Thursday and Friday to make the U.S. Open cut. She did so in dramatic fashion. With the cut being 4-over par, Khang entered the last three holes Friday at 3-over and birdied two of them to finish at 1-over par.
“It feels a big sigh of relief right now,” Khang said Friday. “I knew coming in to the last three holes I was 3-over total. I knew I had to make birdies at the end of my round. Thankfully some putts dropped.”
It marked the first time in Khang’s career she’s made the U.S. Open cut after missing it the previous two years, perhaps serving as a culmination of the decades of hard work put in by the Khang family that began in the 1970s, when they arrived in the U.S.
“When we came here we were on welfare,” Lee Khang said.
Lee, like his brothers and sister, was a child at the time. And none of them knew how to speak English.
“I had a friend whose mother basically took us in and taught us English,” Yer Khang said Friday while watching Megan finish on her final holes.
Yer Khang went on to graduate high school but later dropped out of college to find a job so he could pay off a car loan. But he went to trade school, learned the techniques of welding, and landed a job with a medical device company, where he’s been ever since. His brother, Lee, has a similar story.
“I used to fix cars. And now my wife has a full-time job and I do part-time teaching,” said Lee Khang, who also travels with Megan to tournaments to serve as her caddie. “We have one income. That’s why it’s so hard. We’re not like everyone else. She’s not ranked as a high amateur because we don’t have the resources (to travel to tournaments).”
Yer was the one who, 15 years ago, introduced golf to Lee, who introduced it to Megan when she was 5 years old.
“So my wife says, ‘You have a little baby. You can’t be playing golf all the time.’ So I said, ‘OK, I’ll take Megan with me,’” Lee Khang said. “So I go to Megan and I’m like, ‘You want to come with me? You can drive the golf cart.’”
But Lee gave Megan, an only child, incentives before he let her drive the cart.
“I put her ball next to mine and I said, ‘If you hit it into the rough, I drive the golf cart. If you keep it in the fairway, you can drive the golf cart.’ And that is when you could see the intensity. Every shot was in the fairway.”
The rest is history. Megan Khang began getting full athletic scholarship offers for golf from colleges at the age of 12. Now 17, she still hasn’t decided on a college, as she’s debating possibly turning professional or becoming a full-time member on the lower-level Symetra Tour.
Khang’s third round Saturday didn’t go as well, tallying a double bogey and three bogeys but saving herself a bit by hitting two birdies to finish 3-over-par 73 for the day to sit at 4-over through three rounds. It doesn’t matter. Her effort this weekend proves she can hang with the best women’s golfers in the world. It’s another step forward for a family that epitomizes the American Dream.
“Oh, yeah. That’s why we always laugh, the people in other nations have no idea what this country offers,” Lee Khang said. “We’re not even there yet. But to have the opportunity is what you want.”