Ariya Jutanugarn etched her name into the history books by becoming the 2016 RICOH Women’s British Open champion at Woburn Golf Club in England.
The powerful 20-year-old from Bangkok became the first male or female golfer from Thailand to win a major championship and delivered on the promise shown from an early age, having first appeared on the professional tour as an 11-year-old with her sister, Moriya, who is 16 months older.
The pair were encouraged to play golf by their father Somboon and mother Narumon, who own a golf shop at the Rose Garden Golf Course near Bangkok.
As early as 2007, Ariya finished in a tie for 51st place at the Honda LPGA Thailand aged 11, making her the youngest ever player to qualify for an LPGA event. The following year, she tied for 28th place in the Finnair Masters in Helsinki aged 12, becoming the youngest player to make a cut on the Ladies European Tour.
In 2011, she played in a number of professional tournaments with a tie for eighth at the Honda LPGA Thailand and 25th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The success story continued in 2012 with three further top 25 finishes in LPGA tournaments and titles including the U.S. Junior Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, AJGA Rolex Girls Junior, Junior PGA, Canadian Women’s Amateur and Polo Golf Junior Classic.
She ended that year ranked second behind Lydia Ko on the Amateur World Rankings and is now second to Ko on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, following her Major triumph.
After winning the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School for 2013 by five strokes, Ariya wasted little time in earning her breakthough professional victory at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco, but she suffered a huge injury set-back when she stumbled off a tee box during the 2013 LPGA Championship and tore the labrum in her right shoulder. She was out for eight months without touching a club and when she returned, still with some pain, she couldn’t make the same kind of swing.
This year, she has started working with coach Gary Gilchrist and is once again one of the longest hitters in the game, as she was before her injury. In May, she collected three titles in a row, at the Yokohama LPGA Classic, Kingsmill Championship and LPGA Volvik Championship.
She removed the driver from the bag on her way to winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open, as she did when she almost won the ANA Inspiration, preferring to use her 2-iron.
Speaking about Jutanugarn’s performance, television commentator Judy Rankin said: “She is some kind of player. You just have to stand in admiration,” while Jerry Folz added: “She is Laura Davies with the putter, she is Lydia Ko with length and Michelle Wie without a swing thought. She is the whole package.”
“Exciting time for the women’s game with the arrival of Ariya Jutanugarn as a major champion.”