Alumni Report: Jutanugarn's pro success mirrors amateur days
Ever wonder what happens to top amateurs after they pass through the web pages of AmateurGolf.com? Welcome to our new series, the Alumni Report. Each week, we’ll profile a former AmateurGolf.com member now navigating the pro waters, providing a progress report and a snapshot of his or her amateur career.
Ariya Jutanugarn (LPGA/Twitter photo)
smiles constantly. If there’s one thing that’s been consistent for Jutanugarn, now 23, from the time she was dominating amateur events to this past month, when she won the LPGA’s CME Race to the Globe $1 million bonus, then that’s it.
The affable Thai player often doesn’t have much to say, but her mindset is communicated quite clearly with a smile that lights up her whole face. You see it when she’s winning, when she’s not winning and when she’s somewhere in between. Jutanugarn won the U.S. Women’s Open this summer, but even after blowing a seven-shot lead over the final nine holes to fall into a sudden-death playoff, she was clapping for Hyo-Joo Kim when she hit good shots over the four extra holes.
“I'm so happy for her when I saw her make the putt,” Jutanugarn explained that day, quite naturally. “I feel that's good.”
Jutanugarn’s fourth year on the LPGA tour was a big one. The Women’s Open was one of three victories, and she entered the tour finale having already locked up the Rolex Player of the Year award and the money title. She also won the Vare Trophy for scoring average and the Rolex Annika Major Award. Jutanugarn has 10 career victories, and a whopping 54 career top 10s.
And none of it is a bit surprising.
For Jutanugarn, the biggest evidence of personal growth is in confidence and communication. Jutanugarn often let her older sister Moriya, 24 and also now on the LPGA tour, do the talking when the two were younger. But now, the media and the world want to hear from Ariya. Her manner in front of media – whether that’s one reporter or 20 – is noticeably calmer since her amateur-golf days, and she offers a much better look at what’s going on inside her head. She has always been a perfectionist, but now she often praises areas of her game or her performance in general when that praise is due.
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Jutanugarn first appeared on the American junior golf scene at the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior. She was 14 years old, and advanced to the match-play quarterfinals. Over the next four years, she played the full gamut of U.S. Golf Association, American Junior Golf Association and one-off junior and amateur events.
In 2011, Jutanugarn won the U.S. Girls’ Junior for a major breakthrough. An incredible six junior and amateur victories followed in 2012, including the Canadian Women’s Amateur and the Women’s Western Amateur. She was runner-up at the South Atlantic Amateur (Sally) and Harder Hall, made it to the semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur that summer and capped the year by winning LET Q-School.
Her first professional victory came in 2013, at the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
In Jutanugarn’s teenage days, a post-round interview often had self-deprecating overtones even though her driver was long, solid and accurate and her putter deadly. Jutanugarn also had a strong work ethic that left her on the practice facilities, always smiling, long after many other players had left the course.
Jutanugarn’s success has long been in the cards.