|Ariya (right) with fellow LET rookies at Lalla Aicha Tour School for 2013
Impressive LET rookie Ariya Jutanugarn, 17, from Thailand, is expected to be one of the leading lights at Mission Hills Haikou in the second World Ladies Championship this week.
The Bangkok-born player is making a huge name for herself in her first season as a pro having already clocked up two runner-up positions at a Ladies European Tour in Australia and at the Honda LPGA event in her home country a fortnight ago.
After winning the LET’s Final Tour School by five strokes in Morocco in December, the teenager tied for second behind Karrie Webb in her professional debut at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters in Australia.
She also narrowly missed out on earning a maiden victory in her home event at the Honda LPGA Thailand, when Korean Inbee Park triumphed by a stroke after Jutanugarn took a double bogey on the last hole.
In her other two performances so far this year, she tied for 25th in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open, won by her former amateur rival Lydia Ko and, after receiving a sponsor’s invitation to last week’s HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, Jutanugarn finished fourth behind winner Stacy Lewis with a final score of -10.
Ariya’s older sister Moriya Jutanagarn, an LPGA rookie at 18, and 23-year-old Pornanong Phatlum all finished in the Top 15 at the showpiece event often referred to as “Asia’s major.”
Ariya Junatagarn said: “This year has been better than we could have hoped for and it’s great for me and Moriya and of course women’s golf in Thailand in general. Pornanong played well too and it really feels like the start of something special – if we can help take Thai golf to the next stage then we’ll all be very happy.”
Jutanugarn’s incredible results strongly suggest that she is amongst the new generation of superstars in women’s golf taking the game by storm this year and she is currently leading the LET’s Rolex Rookie of the Year standings, by 5,897 Euro from Australian Nikki Campbell, also playing in her first season as a member of the tour.
Already ranked 40th in the world after just four events played, Jutanugarn has huge potential and the fact that she came so close in Australia and Thailand will have everyone at Mission Hills Haikou in China on the edge of their seats.