Ormond Beach, Fla.
The Wongluekiet family couldn’t have scripted a better performance as it took center stage Jan. 18 in the final round of the South Atlantic Ladies Amateur.
With her father, Injong Song, as her caddie, Aree fought cold temperatures and birdied two of the last four holes to edge twin sister Naree by two strokes at Oceanside Country Club.
Aree, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings, captured her fourth consecutive title by carding a 1-under-par 71 to finish at 7-over 295. Prior to the Sally, Aree nipped her sister by one stroke at the Harder Hall Invitational, was co-medalist at the Futures Tour Qualifying School tournament and took home the individual title at the World Team Amateur Championship, where she played for her native Thailand.
Naree, who had her mother, Vanee, on her bag, posted a final-round 74 and credited her putting as the key reason she fell short in her quest for a second consecutive South Atlantic title.
“I hit the ball pretty well, and I made most of my par putts, but couldn’t get the birdie putts to drop,” Naree said.
After starting the day two strokes back, Aree posted three birdies on the front side to take a two-shot lead over Naree and third-round leader Laura Myerscough into the final nine holes.
On the par-5 12th, Aree’s drive found the sawgrass on the right of the fairway, and she was forced to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie.
After Aree’s fourth shot landed over the green, Naree thought she may have a window of opportunity, but her sister drained a 25-foot bogey putt to maintain a one-shot lead. Aree again felt the momentum turn her way on No. 15 as she pumped her fist after a 25-foot birdie putt found the cup.
“I knew it was a big putt before I hit it, and I tried to stay calm throughout the whole putt,” Aree said.
Aree’s exclamation point came on the par-5 17th hole, where she blasted a 275-yard drive into the center of the fairway. She then ripped a 4-iron 168 yards over the back edge of the green and two-putted for birdie.
A par on the last hole secured the title and put her in the prestigious company of past Sally champions Patty Berg (1938-39), Babe Zaharias (1947), Judy Bell (1958), Grace Park (1997), Beth Bauer (2000) and, as Aree pointed out in her closing remarks, her sister.
Robin Burke shot 73 to finish third, and Myerscough came in fourth after a final-round 78.
Short shots: The Wongluekiets weren’t the only sister act in town. Sisters Seema and Nisha Sadekar also were paired together Jan. 18, and each had a parent on the bag. Seventeen-year-old Seema, who has committed to UNLV, shot 72 to finish sixth, while Nisha had 77 to take 11th. Nisha, 22, graduated from the University of Missouri in December and is gearing up for the Futures Tour beginning in March. . . . In the second round, Carol Semple Thompson rebounded from a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole with an ace at the par-3 fourth. The 54-year-old went on to shoot 25-over 313 and finished tied for 18th. Prior to the event, past and present South Atlantic officials gathered to present the seven-time USGA champion with a bagpipe procession and an honorary green Sally jacket.