Channel 7 and Honda held a ceremony to announce the 2014 Honda LPGA Thailand. Several well known Thai golfers attended the event, including Pornanong Phatlum, former player Virada Nirapathpongporn and the Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya. It’s always nice to see Virada, whom I wish were still playing, either on the LPGA tour or even an Asian tour, but the story that piqued my interest the most was the status of Ariya Jutanugarn. She started 2013 as a rookie on the Ladies European Tour while playing select events on the LPGA, whether through sponsor invitations or a qualifying round. Ariya played sensationally. Early on, she won the Lalla Meryem Cup on the LET Tour.
She was the 36 hole leader at the Kingsmill Championship (which, by the way, was just extended through 2017…hooray!) on the LPGA. But what is probably most remembered was a collapse on the final hole of the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand. She played 18 with a 3 shot lead over Inbee Park. I won’t go into what exactly happened…it’s too painful, even as a fan, for me to recount. Let’s just say a triple bogey later she finished 1 shot behind Inbee. She would end up crying in her sister’s arms.
Give her credit, though. Despite that devastating loss, she bounced back in the next LPGA event, the HSBC Women’s Champions with a strong 4th place finish, and soon after that won the LET event. Her promising golf year came crashing down when she took a tumble while engaging in some horseplay with her sister. It was a fall that required shoulder surgery and rehabilitation. She hopes to be back in time for the 2014 Honda Thailand. In addition to the 1.5 million USD prizemoney, Honda is donating 1,000,000 Thai Baht (or around 32,000 USD) to the Thailand Ladies Golf Association. If somebody should hit a hole in one on the par 3 16th, they will win a Honda Accord 2.4 EL. I hope that somebody is Ariya. She did have a hole in one during the 2013 event on the par 3 12th. Most of all, I’d love to see her hold the winner’s trophy at the end of the event. First, she needs to be fully healed and rehabilitated. I don’t know if she’s even hit a golf ball since her injury. She plays an aggressive style, so even when she starts practicing off the tee, it might take a while to get back into form. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.
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