Ariya Jutanugarn, 15, of Thailand, defeated Dottie Ardina, 17, of the Philippines, 2 and 1, in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final to win the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, conducted on the 6,403-yard, par-72 South Course at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Jutanugarn captured her first USGA championship, becoming only the 16th stroke-play medalist in the 63-year history of the championship to take the victory. She also became the third player from Thailand to win a USGA title. In victory, she receives a full exemption into all remaining U.S. Girls’ Juniors before her 18th birthday.
"I'm so proud because it's my first win in match play," said Jutanugarn, who had not advanced past the third round at a USGA championship conducted at match play since her first championship appearance at the 2009 U.S. Girls' Junior.
Jutanugarn opened with a bang, birdieing the par-4 first hole to take an immediate 1-up lead. She was able to hold the lead until the sixth hole, where her second shot rolled down a steep hill to the left of the green. Two unsuccessful attempts to reach the green squared the match.
Ardina and Jutanugarn swapped pars for the next 11 holes to remain all square, but Jutanugarn’s bogey on the par-4 17th gave Ardina a 1-up lead that she carried into the break between rounds.
Jutanugarn used the one-hour break to reflect on her first 18 holes and the flaws she found in her game, particularly in her putting.
"I think in the morning, I played not so good because I missed a lot of putts. They were all short all the time," said Jutanugarn, who competed in the 2011 U.S. Women's Open and won the 2011 Rolex Girls Junior Championship.
Ardina also pointed to her putting as her weakness during the morning round.
"The key to the match was birdies and pars," said Ardina, who has represented the Philippines twice at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. "I just kept making three-putts."
The break ultimately went to Jutanugarn's favor, as she immediately birdied the 19th hole to square the match. The see-saw battle continued from there, with Ardina never letting Jutanugarn extend her lead past a single hole.
Finally, at the par-4 31st hole, she got the break that she needed. When Ardina hit her approach 10 feet right of the hole, Jutanugarn stepped up and dropped her approach shot within 2 feet. Ardina’s missed birdie putt was Jutanugarn’s moment to capitalize, and a birdie gave her the first 2-up lead of the match.
Despite losing the 33rd hole to Ardina to narrow the margin to 1 up, Jutanugarn’s success on the 31st hole gave her the confidence she needed to go for the win.
"I just think like if I can make this one, and I want to make birdie and make one, I’m going to be dormie," said Jutanugarn. "But I make it and next hole I miss it, so I feel like, 'OK, 17, I'm going to make.'"
And make it she did. Ardina's long putt on No. 35, a par 4, blew 3 feet past the hole, and her short comebacker burned the edge. Jutanugarn’s 4-foot par putt clinched the two-hole victory.
The entire Jutanugarn family was a familiar sight around the OFCC grounds. Jutanugarn's sister, Moriya, was forced to withdraw from the championship with a wrist injury and ultimately served as her sister's trusted adviser and caddie. Her parents, Somboon and Narumon, always quietly walked the sidelines, cheering on their daughter.
"I feel like I'm so happy," said Jutanugarn, who spends five months per year traveling the United States with her family, spending week upon week in hotel rooms. "I really want to thank my dad and my mom who are with me all the time, every year, and thank you to my sister for being the caddie for me this week."
"[Moriya is] so nice, and she tells me if she played this tournament, she's going to beat me."
As for Ardina, her morning troubles with her putter never went away, though she did make 34 of 35 fairways off the tee and all but three greens. She was able to walk away from the disappointment with a measure of satisfaction.
"It's OK, I'm OK," said Ardina. "I'm disappointed because my putting dropped me down."
Jutanugarn and Ardina both received full exemptions into next month's U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at Rhode Island Country Club, into which they were both already exempt by virtue of their play in other USGA events. Jutanugarn is also exempt into the 2012 Women’s Amateur, to be conducted at The Country Club in Cleveland.
The 2012 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship will be conducted July 16-21 at Lake Merced Country Club in Daly City, Calif., outside San Francisco.
The U.S. Girls' Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olympia Fields, Ill. – Results from Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole championship-final match at the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted on the 6,403-yard, par-72 South Course at Olympia Fields Country Club (CDT):
Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (140) def. Dottie Ardina, Philippines (151), 2 and 1