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NORTON, Massachusetts – Over the years, Mass Golf has developed partnerships with well-known professional golfers who are proud of developing their roots through amateur golf in Massachusetts. Therefore, Mass Golf is excited to announce that two particular Massachusetts natives — LPGA Tour professional Megan Khang (Rockland) and PGA TOUR professional Richy Werenski (South Hadley) — will be the first two professional golfers to be recognized officially as an Ambassador of Mass Golf.
An Ambassador fosters the ideals of the game on a local and national level and expresses concern for others that extends beyond the golf course. They understand the importance of creating opportunities and life-changing experiences that grow the game.
With assistance from the Mass Golf staff and Board of Directors, an Ambassador is able to deliver a strong message about the importance of amateur golf and youth development in Massachusetts. They welcome engagement, collaboration and communication with a wide-ranging network from the Bay State and support Mass Golf in advancing the game of golf throughout the Commonwealth.
“Richy and Megan are both fantastic role models within the game of golf,” said Jesse Menachem, Mass Golf’s Executive Director/CEO. “They are graciously putting in the time to make sure their fellow Bay Staters can make golf an enjoyable experience and part of their lifestyle.
“They maintain the core values of golf at the highest level, and our hope is that our membership, especially junior golfers, will look up to them, connect with them and relate to their experiences. We look forward to supporting them as they strive to make more possible for themselves and for the entire Mass Golf community.”
Megan Khang, 23, learned the game like many people did — from her father. Khang’s parents were refugees from the Vietnam War and ended up laying roots in the Northeast. Her father, Lee, was an auto mechanic but became a self-taught golf instructor and ended up introducing Megan to the game at age 5.
Khang perfected the fundamentals and swing mechanics rapidly, working hard toward her dream of playing on the LPGA Tour. By age 8, she was already winning junior amateur tournaments. Back home, she’d face much older competition but held her own. At 11, she made it to a playoff in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, and at 13 won the 2011 Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur. When she turned 14 the next year, she not only defended her title but qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Traveling out of state was a luxury for Khang’s family, so every high-level event she played in, Khang was grateful for the opportunity to prove herself. Her father once said, “You go to the first tee thinking you’re the best, and if it doesn’t happen, then it’s not your day.’’
“We didn’t have the resources a lot of golf families had, and even as a child, Megan knew that,” Lee once told Golf Channel. “I think, understanding that traveling to big tournaments was difficult, she worked harder to take advantage of opportunities when she got them. She worked hard to do her best.”
Despite being highly recruited by colleges, Khang decided to turn pro at age 18. She earned her LPGA Tour card in 2016, becoming the first player of Hmong and Laotian descent on tour. Though she is still seeking her first LPGA Tour victory, she has earned several top 10 finishes, was selected for the 2019 Solheim Cup, and is ranked 58th on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She’ll also be competing in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open taking place December 10-13, 2020.
Through it all, Khang said she appreciates the support she gets from the Bay State.
“The friendly people make it home,” Khang said. “Their support is immense and incredible. I get texts from people once in a while, and it just shows how close people are. It’s a small community, especially in the golf world.”
As an ambassador, Khang said she hopes to encourage people to play with those close to them.
“I enjoy giving back,” Khang said. “It reminds me of being younger. I want to see the game grow so young people have lots of people to play with.”
As for her advice toward Mass Golf Members, “Practice, practice, practice. Work on your putting and short game. No one drives to win, they putt to win.”
Also, “Play 9 holes and have a drink or dinner afterward. Play games and always make it fun.”
Werenski, 28, spent his early days learning the game at The Orchards Golf Club in his hometown of South Hadley. Joined by his brother, Mickey, the two would spend time visualizing that they were putting to win The Masters.
Werenski still has aspirations to play on the big stage at Augusta National, but 2020 has been instrumental in building a successful career. Werenski had a terrific 2020 season, finishing 38th in last season’s FedEx Cup standings. In August, he won his first PGA TOUR event with a one-point win at the Barracuda Championship and earned a spot in the PGA Championship, plus full exemption through the 2021-2022 season. During the second round of the ZOZO Championship, Werenski sank 12 birdies for a 61, the lowest score in a Tour-sanctioned competition at Sherwood Country Club. Tiger Woods, one of Werenski’s many icons growing up, held the previous record.
Werenski also qualified for The Northern Trust this year at TPC Boston in Norton, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. While on the practice range, he recorded a video with Mass Golf and First Tee Massachusetts, touting “perseverance”, one of the nine core values of the First Tee.
He also encouraged young and beginning players to be relaxed and enhance the enjoyable parts of the game.
“Keep the game of golf fun right now,” he said. “The swing doesn’t need to be perfect. You need to learn how to get the golf ball in the hole, learn how to get out of trouble, learn to hit crazy shots, and it’s going to help you gain overall in the long run.”
Werenski attended Georgia Tech before turning professional in 2014. He competed in four U.S. Amateur Championships as well as the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He capped his amateur career, with a spectacular victory in the 2012 Porter Cup, an elite amateur event that has been won by major champions such as Phil Mickelson, John Harris and David Duval. He also played in state and regional amateur events, winning the 2013 Mass Four-Ball Championship with his brother Mickey.
In early 2015, Werenski won Golf Channel’s reality show Big Break: The Palm Beaches, helping launch his professional golf career and make him a more familiar face on tour.
Over the years, more friends and family have been able to see Werenski on tour. When he travels more locally to events, like the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut, his supporters will yell, “Here we go South Hadley!” or “413!” when he makes putts.
“Seeing their faces in the crowd and stuff was pretty cool,” Werenski said after playing in the 2017 Travelers Championship. “I was 4-over on the front and people were still clapping and encouraging me. It’s nice to have that support.”
Once again, Mass Golf is appreciative of Richy Werenski and Megan Khang for their interest and support in amateur golf in the Bay State. We look forward to their collaboration for years to come. You can follow Werenski on Twitter @werenskir, as well as Khang @megan_khang1023.
For more information regarding Mass Golf, visit MassGolf.org or follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf.