Ha Na Jang is the type of player golf fans love.
She’s effervescent, engaging and demonstrative. And, oh yeah, the new world No.9 can play a little, too.
And she’s about to bring it all to The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
Alongside world No.12 Brooke Henderson and 2014 Australian Ladies Masters champion Cheyenne Woods, Jang brings one of the hottest games in women’s golf to South Australia.
And tournament director Trevor Herden said all three women were part of the sport’s bright future.
“We are really excited to have Ha Na and Brooke in Adelaide. They ran one-two in Florida last week, so there’s nobody playing better golf on the LPGA Tour than those two,” Herden said.
“They are attacking players and both are very colourful characters – it should be a lot of fun to have them both in town in such fine form.
“And Cheyenne is one of the most popular visitors we’ve had in years – she’s another warm character with a big, entertaining game full of potential.
“We’re rapt that all three women have committed to what’s shaping as a massive week in South Australia and see all of them as genuine major championship contenders this year and beyond.”
Korean dynamo Jang soared to No.14 in the end-of-2015 Rolex Rankings on the back of four runner-up finishes in her rookie campaign, including at the end-of-season CME Tour Championship.
But with so many of her countrywomen and former amateur colleagues breaking through for maiden victories on the LPGA Tour, that huge splash eluded Jang.
Until the past fortnight, that is.
The 23-year-old didn’t win the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Bahamas Classic, but she made “plays of the day” all around the world with a magnificent albatross on a par four en route to a T11 finish.
Buoyed, Jang finally took that next big step at the weekend, sealing an emotional victory in the Coates Championship in Florida.
Renowned for her fierce work ethic and broad smile, Jang’s closing birdie putt was the catalyst for a couple of new insights into her motivations and emotions.
Her “samurai sword” celebration as the winning putt dropped was one of those natural, joyous moments that will endure throughout the LPGA Tour season.
Her words during post-round celebrations were heartfelt and moving.
“I can’t describe it. I’m so happy. I cannot put it in my words. My dad, every week, every day, and together (with) me, it’s really thank you every week (tearing up),” Jang said, clearly emotional.
“Thank you for my mum, too, who has helped, but sometimes my dad gave, like a little fight, too, say always, `You can do this, you’ve got it, you’re really good’. So I say really thank you my dad.”
In addition to her four close calls last year, she watched as long-time friends and competitors – Hyo Joo Kim, Sei Young Kim, and In Gee Chun – posted wins on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s been affecting me the way I play because they’re competitors and they’re good friends. I’ve been competing with them for a long time, so watching them winning and then finishing second four times, it’s been heartbreaking,” Jang said.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I worked very hard, so finally I got there and have the win. From now on, I’m going to be able to relax a little bit more, focus more on upcoming tournaments.”
Jang, who rose to a career-high No.9 in the rankings after her victory, was the joint halfway leader of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open last year alongside eventual champion Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn.
She went on to finish tied seventh alongside Minjee Lee, with whom she will again compete next week.
Another player with high hopes in South Australia is Canadian sensation Henderson.
The 18-year-old revelation has charged to No.12 in the world after finishing runner-up to Jang last week having already won three times since turning professional in December, 2014, including an LPGA Tour victory in Portland last year after coming through qualifying.
Woods, niece of former world men’s No.1 Tiger, continues to forge her path on the LPGA Tour after making eight cuts in her rookie season last year.
The 25-year-old loves Australia, especially with her maiden professional victory coming at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast two years ago.
The 2016 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will be held from February 18-21 on The Grange Golf Club’s West Course with tickets from www.Ticketek.com.au on sale now.
The Open is the flagship tournament on the ALPG Tour and is jointly sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour.
The prizemoney is $US1.3million (approx. $AUD1.85million), making it the largest prize purse in Australian golf this summer.
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