OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Few words were spoken in the fairways of Olympia Fields Country Club Saturday morning as the final match of the U.S. Girls’ Junior got underway. You got the impression Ariya Jutanugarn and Dottie Ardina had little energy to spare, and on the first cool morning of a long, hot week, had eyes only for the polished silver trophy that greeted them on the first tee.
Under cloudy skies and on soggy fairways from an early-morning gully-washer, Jutanugarn and Ardina produced nearly flawless golf. Ardina took a 1-up lead into lunch, but consider the possibility that it might only serve as a fire-starter for Jutanugarn.
Jutanugarn, this week’s stroke-play medalist, took the first lead with a birdie at the first hole. She held it until bogeying the sixth hole.
Over the next 10 holes, Ardina, 17, and Jutanugarn, 15, matched pars as both hung birdie putts on the lip. Neither recorded a significant miss until the 451-yard 10th hole, a long par-5 bordered by trees and with a creek cutting the across the fairway that comes into play for the second shot. Jutanugarn put her drive in the middle of the fairway, then flailed a fairway wood toward trees left of the green. Ardina, however, couldn’t capitalize, chunking her pitch then getting up and down as Jutanugarn lipped a 15-foot birdie putt around the hole. From there, it was back to fairways and greens.
Jutanugarn spent the morning outdriving Ardina by as much as 30 yards. Dottie hit 11 fairways to Jutanugarn’s 10.
Ardina, who hails from the Phillipines, is playing in her final U.S. Girls’ Junior before turning 18 on Dec. 2. Jutanugarn, of Thailand, has plenty of time left to capture the trophy, but a USGA title is conspicuously missing from her resume. Already this year she has played in her second career U.S. Women’s Open, won low amateur honors at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and finished T-8 at the Honda LPGA Thailand. If she rallies against Ardina on Saturday afternoon, she will become just the 15th stroke-play medalist to win the championship in Girls’ Junior history.
Certainly, there is no lack of motivation here.