After shooting a 6 under par 66 in round 2,
the unlikely leader of the tournament was none other than
Amy Yang. She hung onto that lead in round 3, despite a great
few finishing holes by French pro Ludivine Kreutz. In the
final round, Amy played with Kreutz and another amateur, a
Korean American named Tiffany Joh.
History was on the line. No amateur had ever
won an Australian ladies event, and no one younger than 18
had ever won an event on any of the major golf tours in the
world (Amy was 16 years 6 months old at the time). It was
only her second ever pro event, but she seemed unflappable,
and with just two holes to go, she had a two shot lead over
Joh and seemingly had the event in the bag. A large group
of kids from her high school followed her to cheer her on.
But Joh birdied 17, and professional Catherine
Cartwright birdied 18 to move to within a shot of Yang. Yang
finally hit a bad shot, her approach on 18, which went into
the stands; she bogied, as did Joh, and suddenly Yang found
herself in a playoff against Cartwright for the title.
But Yang righted the ship and played two great
shots on the first playoff hole. She then dunked a 7 meter
birdie putt to win the trophy and become the youngest to ever
do so on the European Tour, as well as the first amateur to
win on that tour since 1984. She broke down in tears of disbelief
on the final green.
Yang's win earned her invitations to play
in the 2006 Evian Ladies Masters and the British Women's Open.
In the latter tournament, she was the low amateur. The Ladies
European Tour (LET) then offered her a 3 year exemption if
she turned professional, providing she was accompanied by
one of her parents until she turns 18. Turning pro had not
been on her agenda until the end of 2007, but after much discussion
with her school, her coach and her family, a way was found
that she could both turn professional and also complete her
schooling. She played the LET events that fall on or around
school holidays, and planned to graduate from Robina High
School at the end of the year.
Her professional success was immediate. Her
first event was the Dubai Ladies Masters in late October.
In a field stocked with top talent, she finished fourth, behind
only Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and multiple winner Helen
Alfredsson. She pocketed more than $40,000 Australian dollars
for her efforts. At her next event, the Mauritius Open, she
She continued to play professional events
in 2007, including the US Women's Open, where she finished
tied for 50th, her best Major finish to date. In late 2007,
she tried to qualify for the LPGA at Q-School, but barely
managed to acquire non-exempt status. Chances are she will
focus on playing in Europe for the time being. She planned
on moving her home base to Florida starting in 2008; for her
final tournaments in Australia, she managed two top tens at
the 2008 Australian Ladies Open and the ANZ Ladies Masters.
Amy played sporadically on the LPGA in 2008,
and started well, nearly grabbing a top ten in her first event,
the SBS Open. Months later, she secured a tie for 9th, her
first career top ten, at the Hana Bank Kolon Championship.
It was her first time playing professionally in her homeland.
These finishes were not good enough to get her an exempt card,
however, so she had to return to Q-School in December. She
did brilliantly there, finishing second to easily earn full
playing privileges on the LPGA for 2009.
Amy had much more luck in 2008 playing on
the Ladies European Tour, where she was somewhat of a pioneer,
the only Korean on that tour. Week after week, she made top
tens, often finishing in the top five. She very quickly became
one of the top players on tour.
In the summer, she played brilliantly at the
Swiss Open, only to lose to Suzann Pettersen, who was practically
unstoppable that week. Still, her second place finish was
the best since she had won the ANZ. She didn't have to wait
long to better it: the next week, at the German Open, she
crushed the field, shooting a third round 63 to seize the
lead and eventually win by four shots. Among those in the
field she beat was American Michelle Wie. With that win, Yang
became the top player on the tour's money list. She then proved
she was one of the most generous, donating the entire first
place check to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake in China.
Yang wasn't done. A week after the British
Open, she played at the Scandinavian TPC hosted by Annika.
In Sorenstam's last pro event in her homeland, Yang stole
the show, winning her second title of the year.
Although she would not finish the year atop
the money list, she still had played well enough as the youngest
player on the LET to make everyone sit up and take notice.
All in all, Amy's 2009 season, her first one
where she had full playing privileges on the LPGA, was not
bad, but perhaps did not live up to the potential she has
shown. She only managed two top tens, although one of them
was in a Major, and the other saw her come close to winning.
She easily maintained playing privileges for 2010, however,
finishing 45th on the money list.
In 2010, Yang's career took a quantum leap
upward. She improved in almost every way, and went from being
merely a promising player to a genuine star.
She started the year with a top ten at the
very first event of the LPGA season. But her first big tournament
came a few months later at the Sybase Match Play Championship.
Yang worked her way through the field, reaching the semi-finals.
She ended up losing to American Angela Stanford, the only
non-Korean in the final four, and also lost her consolation
match against world #1 Jiyai Shin. But her 4th place finish
was still her career best. Better was to come.
Yang proceed to finish in the top 15 in the
next three Majors: 14th at the LPGA Championship, then 5th
place at both the US Women's Open and the Women's British
Open. She cooled off after that, but returned with a vengeance
at the year's final event, the Tour Championship in December.
At that event, she led most of the week, but a quadruple bogey
early in the fourth round seemed to spell disaster. Nonetheless,
she rallied, caught leader Maria Hjorth, and dunked a birdie
on the final hole to force Hjorth to par to win. Though Hjorth
did make that putt, Yang's second place finish was her new
best. In all, she made more than 3/4 of a million dollars
in 2010, more than twice her 2009 earnings, and recorded 6
top tens. She finished 14th on the money list, far outdistancing
her previous year's 45th.
Yang had an even better season in 2011 than
she did in 2010. She still was not able to claim her first
win, but notched 7 top tens, the most in her career in a single
year. She was once again great at the Majors, finishing 19th,
12th, 10th and 4th in those most important events. She wound
up 10th on the money list, her first time in the top ten,
and all without that pivotal win.
Her best week in 2011 was at the Walmart tournament
in September. She shot a third round 64 to catch world #1
Ya Ni Tseng for the lead. In the final round, they were neck
and neck, eventually ending up in a playoff which Tseng won.
So, another really close call for Yang, but she had to settle
for the runner up position. She also finished second to Tseng
at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan tournament in front of Tseng's
hometown fans. Once again, she was paired with the Taiwanese
star in the final group, but this time she didn't play that
well and lost by five shots for yet another runner up result.
Yang did collect a win in 2011, but not on
the LPGA tour. She was one of the non-tour members invited
to play at the KLPGA's final Major, the KB Financial Group
Star Championship. She really asserted herself in round 3,
shooting a blistering 64 to take a four shot lead over top
KLPGA star Ha Neul Kim, who shot a 66 herself. Both players
were pretty much even in the final round, and Yang took the
title, her first win on the KLPGA tour and first victory of
any kind since she left the Ladies European Tour in 2009.
Amy's 2012 season on the LPGA was only a little
weaker than her 2011 one. She made about $844,000 and finished
13th on the money list, just a few spots behind her 2011 result.
She had 5 top tens, including two in Majors. Indeed, as usual,
it was at the Majors where Yang really shone. She finished
tied for 4th at the Nabisco, but her best finish was at the
US Women's Open, where she played well enough to wind up in
the final group on Sunday with eventual champion Na Yeon Choi.
Choi had established too big a lead for Yang to catch her,
but Amy still finished second, four shots ahead of the third
place player, and the only player besides Choi to finish under
par. Any other year, she might have been the Open champion.