Jutanugarn, 14, ties scoring record at WAPL

Ariya Jutanugarn during round the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand in February 2010.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Martina Gavier was the picture of relaxation Tuesday afternoon at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame. After signing for a 3-under 68 on Day 2 of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, Gavier retreated to a shady spot just off the ninth green and waited for Kent State teammate Mercedes Germino to finish her round.

With a soccer jersey for her native Argentina draped over her shoulders – her team was matched against Greece in the World Cup later in the evening – Gavier talked about the new mindset that helped her to a 5-under 137, good for runner-up honors in the stroke-play portion of the championship: More fun, less thinking. After a successful WAPL qualifier and a not-so successful U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, Gavier returned home for some much-needed rest, playing just twice before returning to the United States.

“I started making sense of the simplest advice: Relax and half fun. I was so driven and thinking about goals, and that kind of put a lot of pressure on me,” Gavier said. “... Enjoyment and relaxation is not overrated.”

A rising senior at Kent State, Gavier remained in the top spot for most of the day as 14-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn made her way around the course with unfailing accuracy off the tee. Jutanugarn put up 67 to get to 7 under for the tournament and bump Gavier for medalist honors.

Jutanugarn’s score tied the record for stroke-play qualifying, set by Duke’s Brittany Lang in 2004.

“My irons are really good; my putting is good,” Jutanugarn said. “It’s a really nice course, and it’s really challenging. I like it.”

If Gavier was the poster-child for tranquility in stroke-play qualifying, then Jutanugarn was it for consistency. With her father, Somboon, on the bag, Jutanugarn hit fairway after fairway, avoiding the big numbers that many of her opponents carded after hitting into the Warren Course’s deep rough.

Ariya’s older sister, 15-year-old Moriya, also is in the field this week, and at times they are difficult to tell apart. Similar in stature, dress and unfailing accuracy on the course, the Jutanugarns had back-to-back afternoon tee times, and both will advance to match play (Moriya was T-15 at 3-over 145).

The Jutanugarns, of Thailand, are in the middle of a summer that includes every possible USGA stop, and a few AJGA invitationals sprinkled between. Somboon keeps a typed list of the events his daughters will play each week, and the girls’ schedules don’t match completely. Both are playing in their first WAPL this week before Ariya heads to next month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont, Pa. From there, Ariya hits the U.S. Girls’ Junior in Pinehurst, N.C., as Moriya jets to England for a Women’s British Open qualifier.

Talk about a pair to watch.

For now, Moriya has her mother, Narumon, on the bag, and the caddie duties will stay this way until one of the sisters falls in a match. Moriya was quick to explain that she will pick up her sister’s bag should she be knocked out first, just as she did in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior. In fact, it was Moriya who looped for Ariya the day Ariya knocked off Alexis Thompson in the Round of 16 (Ariya lost in the quarterfinals).

Across the course from the Jutanugarn clinic, Lizette Salas also fared well. After a first-round 67, the USC standout shot 71 and finished third at 138.

“The wind obviously picked up a little bit today and I wasn’t swinging as well as yesterday and I saw more of the golf course today than I did yesterday,” said Salas, who was knocked out in the Round of 16 last year.

Salas viewed stroke-play qualifying as practice for the matches to come, and said she feels comfortable heading into the Round of 64.

Brittany Altomare, a rising sophomore at Virginia, might have the most momentum in South Bend after a four-shot victory June 17 at the Women’s Eastern Amateur. Altomare joined Ariya Jutanugarn and Martina Gavier as the only players in the field to shoot two rounds under par. Altomare’s second-round 70 included a stretch of three straight birdies at Nos. 17, 18 and 1 (she teed off at No. 10). She feels good about her game now, which is a boost of confidence on a course that puts a premium on accuracy off the tee.

“If you don’t hit it in the fairway, especially that fescue is tough,” she said. “I’m playing well. I’m putting really well.”

Emily Tubert rounded out the top 5 at 1-under 141, and Kristina Wong was sixth at 1 over. Eight players tied for seventh, including first-round leader Kimberly Kim. Kim, who finished runner-up to Jennifer Song at the ’09 WAPL, cruised to a 5-under 66 in Round 1, but returned a 78 to drop down the leaderboard.

With wind gusts dying and the sun setting, eight players returned to the course after the round to play off for the final three match-play spots. Jessie Jordan, Augusta James and Kuriko Tsukiyama advanced.

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