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Alex Kang claims U.S. Open local qualifier with sister as caddie

Alex Kang benefited from his sister’s support Monday while firing a 7-under-par 65 to claim the low round of the U.S. Open local qualifier at the Sun Mountain course at Las Vegas Paiute Resort.

Kang’s bogey-free score was helped by guidance from sister Danielle, who served as his caddie. Danielle Kang is an LPGA Tour major tournament champion, having won the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and currently ranks 12th on this year’s tour money list.

“I had a lot fun with my sister, I made some putts and it’s always fun to shoot 65,” said Kang, a Web.com Tour player who finished tied for 10th at last year’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “She had positive vibes and just told me to stay calm and stay chill.”

Four other golfers advanced to sectional qualifying where they hope to secure a spot in the U. S. Open at Pebble Beach June 13-16.

Joining Kang were Arbor View High product Van Thomas (66), former UNLV golfer Brett Kanda (67), former Cimarron-Memorial High golfer Brandon Smith (67) and former Palo Verde High golfer Brandon Bauman (68).

Bauman sank a 30-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole and won a four-person playoff for the final spot. PGA Tour Champions player Bob May was first alternate and Eric McCardle was second alternate.

While Kang enjoyed the input from a professional golfer, Thomas had local course knowledge along with him during his round. Sterlin Smokey, Thomas’ former high school teammate and a member of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe, was his caddie. Thomas recorded six birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and nine pars during his round.

“The first thing that comes to mind about my round is having Sterlin on my bag and trusting him and allowing him to lead the way,” Thomas said. “I didn’t try and force anything today, and I just wanted to have fun with it.”

Players had to score fairly low to emerge successful at the Las Vegas qualifier, which featured a 75-player field of top area amateurs, club professionals and tour pros.

“My driving accuracy off the tee was very good,” Smith said. “I didn’t hit a lot of drivers today, just a lot of 3-woods and 2-irons to keep the ball in play. I think I missed two fairways all day so that helped me keep the ball in front of me and that was important.”

In 2018, 21 players nationally advanced through local and sectional qualifying to the 156-player U.S. Open. Ken Venturi (1964) and Orville Moody (1969) are the only golfers to have won the U.S. Open after qualifying through local and sectional play.

Thomas is scheduled to play the sectional qualifier at Big Canyon Country Club and Newport Country Club on June 3, one of 12 sectional qualifiers in the U.S.

“My brother, Zane, has played in a sectional before, and he told me it’s the same as today,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of a sprint, and you need to get off to a hot start and keep it going.”

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