American spectators will need to brush up their cosmopolitan pronunciation skills as Thai golfers continue to excel in upper level competition. It will only take a few minutes before the new names roll trippingly off the tongue, and it will be more than worth it.
Junthima Gulyanamitta, of Rayong, recently won the LPGA Qualifying School. She didnâ€™t just make the cut â€“ she won it, with Christine Song close behind. The top twenty were given LPGA cards outright, while a secondary group was granted limited access.
The Bangkok Post, which describes itself as â€œThe Worldâ€™s Window on Thailand,â€ is all over it. In fact, the publication covers all of its sporting events and athletes worldwide with an extraordinary passion, and golf is not a second tier consideration.
Ms. Gulyanamitta is not a stranger to the national interest in golf, having played on the national team since 1999. She won the Thai Junior Golf Championship and the 2006 UBC-Singha Junior Golf Championship, choosing to enter Purdue University as a star on its collegiate golf team, where the results were similar. Ms. Gulyanamitta was named first team All Big Ten, won the Indiana Inivitational, was Golfweekâ€™s Player of the Year, was twice named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week, and shot eleven rounds at or under par. Incidentally, she also anchored Purdueâ€™s National NCAA Championship Team in 2010. Ms. Gulyanamittaâ€™s assessment of the whole thing was refreshing, describing her enjoyment of the Purdue experience, and how it helped to improve her game so rapidly.
So, Junthima Gulyanamitta has begun appearing on tour, winning $48,000 for a 15th place tie in the U.S. Womenâ€™s Open. Even though such winnings wonâ€™t go far after taxes and expenses, it was a decent start against most of the worldâ€™s best. And, sheâ€™s not alone in representing her country.
Junthimaâ€™s (whose nickname is â€œNumaâ€) older sister Russamee has played on the tour, and took turns carrying her little sisterâ€™s bag through the Q school victory. Russamee and fellow sibling Jarawan played on the national team together, so golf runs hot in the family. Having her older sister on the bag might be a problem in some families, but Junthima seemed to enjoy it, referring to her sisterâ€™s presence as relaxing and helpful. She wonâ€™t have that luxury week to week, though, as Russamee still wants to play.
With her entrance onto the tour, four Thai golfers will compete in various events, including Patcharajutar Kongkraphan (who has won several times in China) and Pornanong Â Phatlum. They qualified at 29th and 31st. Joining them will be American Thai golfers, Onnarin Sattayabanphot (also from Purdueâ€™s team), the highly rated Sandra Changkija (who tied for 7th) and Stacy Prammanasudh (who is very popular in Thailand).
With more Thai golfers entering the tour, one can look at the amateur ranks to see more coming. Moriya and Ariya Jutanugam, known as â€œthe sisters,â€ have won several titles between them. Moriya, the Rolex Player of the Year, has received several college offers, while Ariya vies for Thailands Female Athlete of the Year, and has been compared to Lexi Thompson.
It looks as if Purdue knows where to find them, and Thailand has been the place more than once. Winning the Q School is a grueling proposition, and nobody does it as a fluke. Iâ€™ll work on my pronunciation for a minute or two, then look forward to seeing Junthima and her countrywomen on tour.