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Danielle Kang grateful to be back on tour after medical scare

Danielle Kang was never so happy to lose a golf tournament as she was on Sunday.

Sure, the Las Vegas golfer would have loved to win the NW Arkansas Championship. But the fact she came so close, falling in a playoff to world No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul, was cause for celebration.

The result came just a few weeks after her return to golf, and a couple of months after wondering if she would ever compete again.

“I guess I could just say I’m proud of myself, but I’m thankful for the people around me,” she said Sunday. “I have no words actually to explain what I feel and how I feel.”

Kang stepped away from golf in early June with what was described as a tumor on her spine that had left her in severe pain on the course for several weeks. She has kept the details about what it took to get back to playing to her family, closest friends and medical team.

“I was very private about what I went through and how the treatments were and all that,” she said. “If I live through it in my head, I don’t know how I got through it other than the fact that people around me helped me get through it.

“I didn’t persevere. People around me did. I’m just so thankful for that.”

Kang said there were occasional thoughts that her career might be over, but the way she played last week shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

Over three rounds at Pinnacle Country Club, Kang did not make a bogey. She finished at 17-under 196, forcing the playoff when she chipped in for eagle on the 18th hole.

The Arkansas tournament is a favorite among players and holds a special place for Kang. It’s the first LPGA tournament she played as a professional and was the last tournament in the U.S. that her father watched her play in before his death.

Kang views her finish Sunday as part of the process to getting her game back to where she expects it to be.

“Obviously nothing is ever easy, and I understand that,” Kang said. “But I love putting in that kind of effort to see the results, and knowing that I can do it and I have that belief in myself, that kind of family and friends and my team around me to help me be the best player that I can be.

“And you know, moving forward it’s not going to be easy still, but it’s there, right? That’s what I’m happy about.”

Shriners updates

— Junior golfers will have the opportunity to participate in a free junior golf clinic to help kick off the week of the Shriners Children’s Open.

Justin Suh, who earlier this month won the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to earn his PGA Tour playing card, will be on hand at the clinic Monday from 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at TPC Summerlin.

The clinic is free and open to golfers ages 5 to 15. Information on taking part can be obtained by calling the tournament office at 702-873-1010.

— Tournament officials have announced that any active or retired military members or first responders will be admitted free to the tournament, Oct. 6-9. Those who are eligible must present a valid ID at the entry gates for a complimentary daily grounds pass.

— The United States Golf Association is offering tickets to the Shriners for anyone who joins this week. Anyone who joins the USGA will get an official handicap, membership in the Southern Nevada Golf Association and two tickets to the PGA Tour event.

Cost for a one-year membership is $55, which is less than the price of the Shriners tickets. The deal is available at getahandicap.usga.org.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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