Welcome to the LPGA Tour, where U.S. Girls’ Junior champions thrive.
Ariya Jutanugarn (2011) became the fourth Girls’ Junior champion to post a victory during the 2016 season, holding off 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Morgan Pressel, Amy Yang and Stacy Lewis by one stroke in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., on Sunday.
Jutanugarn, who defeated Dottie Ardina at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club five years ago, entered the final round with a three-stroke lead. An up-and-down day of four birdies and four bogeys was enough for the 20-year-old from Thailand to collect her first victory on the LPGA Tour. Her final-round 72 gave her a 72-hole total of 14-under 274.
Last week in Irving, Texas, 2006 Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin claimed her first LPGA Tour title, in the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. Lexi Thompson (2008) and Minjee Lee (2012), who beat Jutanugarn in the semifinals en route to her Girls’ Junior title at Lake Merced Golf Club, have also earned victories this season.
In March, Jutanugarn was in position to win the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s professional major championship of the year, only to finish with three consecutive bogeys to place fourth, two strokes behind champion and world No. 1 Lydia Ko, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. It was one of three top-10 finishes posted by Jutanugarn this season before her breakthrough win on Sunday.
“So tough,” said Jutanugarn, who became the first player from Thailand to win on the LPGA Tour, of her emotions as she closed out the victory. “My legs were shaking, my hands were shaking.”
Three additional USGA champions joined Jutanugarn in the top 10. Lee and 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Candie Kung tied for sixth, while 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu tied for 10th.