DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If it’s possible to be comfortable at Qualifying School, then Numa Gulyanamitta has achieved it.
With older sister Russy on the bag, and friend and former Purdue teammate Maude-Aimee Leblanc among her threesome on Saturday, Gulyanamitta cruised to a 4-under 68 on LPGA International’s Champions Course that moved her from fifth to second. She is three shots behind leader Christine Song entering Sunday’s final round.
“It’s nice to have her. She knows a lot,” Gulyanamitta said of Russy, a Q-School veteran herself. “She tells me what to do, what not to do – a couple tricks that I just needed.”
As if the Thailand native’s spirits needed improving, or her game needed much help. Gulyanamitta is a player who constantly is smiling, good day or bad. And there have been a lot good days in the past two years as Gulyanamitta combined with Leblanc and three other teammates to win the 2010 NCAA Championship and finish runner-up in 2011.
The lasting vision of Purdue’s national title is of Gulyanamitta in Leblanc’s arms, celebrating the first cold-weather school title in NCAA women’s history. Gulyanamitta graduated this past spring, but Leblanc stayed to finish a psychology degree that she hopes she won’t need. Even though she turned professional after using her eligibility at Purdue, the extra study time limited the tournaments in which Leblanc, who hails from Sherbrooke, Quebec, could play. After finals this semester, she hopes there will be a lot more golf in her future.
Gulyanamitta, meanwhile, spent time playing the Cactus Tour in Arizona when she wasn’t back home in Thailand. She also played in the U.S. Women’s Open, finishing T-15.
After such different summers, Leblanc said Saturday was a welcome catch-up.
“We never used to play in tournaments together obviously because we played for the same school,” Leblanc said. “I haven’t played with her in so long, haven’t seen her much this summer. It was just great to see her.”
With a 25-foot birdie putt at the 18th, Leblanc closed out a fourth-round 71 that left her T-5. It drew raucous cheers from the dozen or so followers that made up her gallery. Mother Merlyne Laflamme was among them, as was father Gaston Leblanc. Gaston winters near Daytona Beach, and had brought a local cheering contingent. Cries of ‘Ole!’ and ‘Birdie!’ were indiscernible as the group walked off the green.
It brought a wide smile to the normally stoic Maude-Aimee’s face.
With so much on the line for both their young careers, it was something of a quiet day for Leblanc and Gulyanamitta. Occasionally they ambled off a tee box together and down the fairway, though the tall, lanky Leblanc consistently outdrove Gulyanamitta by 30 yards.
Both remain true to their Purdue roots, proudly wearing the Boilermakers “P” on their shirts. It also appeared on Gulyanamitta’s putter cover and Leblanc’s golf bag and shoes. For Gulyanamitta, at least, Purdue represents a home away from home. She still has a car in West Lafayette, Ind., and without a current permanent residence in the U.S., thinks she could form a temporary home there.
At least until those cold Indiana winters, that is.