Notre Dame, Ind. - It’s a safe bet that no mother and father pairing in this week’s U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links field will sacrifice more for their children over a 100-day span than the parents of Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn.
For the daughters’ dad, Somboon, and mom, Narumon, giving up life’s necessities are becoming something of a habit. Somboon had played golf for 14 years, but gave up the game for their children. He and his wife sold their house and car so Ariya and Moriya could play in competitive tournaments in the United States and have a more successful life. The parents now own a small golf shop in Thailand.
The future may be more rapidly than anyone anticipated for Ariya, who launches prodigious 270-yard drives that could easily be blamed for bringing the rain to northwest Indiana in recent days. In addition to good samaritan, Somboon may be a good luck charm. Caddying for Ariya for the first time, she shot 7-under 135 (67-68) in stroke-play qualifying to tie for the lowest score ever by a WAPL medalist.
“Everything was perfect,” Ariya said following her Tuesday round. “My irons were very good. My driver was very good and my putts were very good. I am proud.”
Even on a not-so-glorious ball-striking day by her ever-ballooning standards, Ariya beat the morning storms and blew past her first round opponent, Augusta James of Canada, 7 and 6.
The family is hopscotching the country on a three-month whirlwind summer tour that would make Bono blush. The travels all started on May 9 and will end in mid-August at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club. In a couple of weeks, it’s off to the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont after Ariya successfully qualified in Industry Hills, Calif., and then the U.S. Girls’ Junior at the Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
After this summer, one can’t help but wonder where golf’s path will take the talents of these junior phenoms.
After all, at 14, Ariya is a veteran as far as competitive golf is concerned. The ninth-grader ‘s game might represent a perfect storm; in addition to detonating drives that might send spectators scampering for eardrum replacement, she calls putting the strength of her game . In 2007, she played in two LPGA Tour events in Thailand, one when she was an 11-year-old. In another event, she was grouped with two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Juli Inkster.
Ariya hopes to play the LPGA Tour someday, but for now it’s a time of constant transition for the Jutanugarns. Somboon brought the girls to golf but they are now taught by a professional that Ariya knows only as Rukchai. She’ll start the process of further refining her game at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida this fall.
Without an obvious craving for material belongings and trying to overcome language barriers in a new world, Somboon, a practicing Catholic, says the family just can’t get over how fortunate they feel. After the WAPL, they will head to Arkansas for an American Junior Golf Association, but there will first be another stop that has become routine. Somboon says they will go to church in Arkansas on Sunday before arriving at the course called, appropriately enough, Blessing Golf Club.
“My family believes in God. Every night we pray: Thank you for my life – and everything,” said Somboon, bowing his head forward, cupping his palms and raising his voice.
Andrew Blair is the communications director for the Virginia State Golf Association. He is contributing articles at this week's WAPL for the USGA.