Red-hot Jao-Javanil among WAPL quarterfinalists
NESHANIC STATION, N.J. – Chirapat Jao-Javanil insists the khaki pants didn’t make her feel any hotter. On a day when the temperature reached 97 degrees but it felt like 110, Jao-Javanil was the only player in the field sporting trousers.
“The pants keep the sunburn away,” she reasoned. A rules official went out and bought 100 hand towels Thursday morning to ice down those putting in a 36-hole day at Neshanic Valley. Four rules officials quit after nine holes during Round 1, the first day of summer.
A native of Thailand, Jao-Javanil knows all about hot. She also knows about winning. The 2012 NCAA champion rolled into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in her first USGA appearance. She defeated a young Thai player named Pailin Ruttanasupagid, 4 and 3, with solid ball-striking and a bogey-free round. The two have been friends for years.
Jao-Javanil’s only other match play experience came in a mixed event in Thailand back when she was 14 years old. She lost on the 18th hole in the final match to a man who is now playing on the Asian Tour.
Jao-Javanil’s greatest strength these days might be her enlightened perspective.
After her Oklahoma coach read a newspaper article about Lorelei Decker, a high school senior at Putnam City North in Oklahoma City who has stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Jao-Javanil’s outlook on golf took a different turn. The team visited Decker during a chemo treatment before NCAA regional play, and Decker gave Jao-Javanil a lime green bracelet. For nationals, the Sooners team painted their nails lime green, put ribbons on their bags and wore the bracelets.
Jao-Javanil still keeps her nails green and wears the bracelet. Just before she left for New Jersey, she played a round of golf with Decker.
“We kind of just enjoyed each other,” said Jao-Javanil. “She just really loves golf.”
The two text often about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA playoff run.
“The Thunder team is looking after her,” said Jao-Javanil, who has seen the same green bracelet on the wrists of Derek Fisher and head coach Scott Brooks.
No doubt Decker will be refreshing the results page during Friday’s quarterfinal round, when Jao-Javanil takes on Texas Tech’s Kim Kaufman.
Jao-Javanil has former teammate Ellen Mueller on the bag. Mueller, who fell to Kyung Kim in the first round, was a senior at Oklahoma when Jao-Javanil was a freshman.
“She has always had the talent,” said Mueller. “Just had to believe in herself.”
Jao-Javanil joined the Mueller family on a three-day road trip to New Jersey.
“Now I know what Ohio looks like,” Jao-Javanil said with a laugh.
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LOST AND FOUND: Lakaraber Abe went to the 18th hole for the third straight match. Only this time it was against former U.S. Girls’ Junior champ Doris Chen, an unflappable player from Taiwan. Abe parred the final hole to beat Chen, 1 up.
The match turned to Abe’s favor when Chen lost a ball in the fescue on the par-5 14th. Chen’s ball was found 30 seconds after her allotted time of five minutes was up. She went on to double-bogey the hole and never recouped.
“I still had some putts that I should have made after,” said Chen, who seemed especially disappointed after the round. Chen has qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in two weeks. She’ll also be at the North & South Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur.
As for Abe, the WAPL already has done loads for the 16-year-old’s confidence.
“I beat some pretty good players this week,” she said.
Next up: Kyung Kim.
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MATCH MAKER: Alice Jeong, 17, went down to the 18th green to pose for a photograph with her caddie. This being her first match play experience, she wanted to record the memory. The ukulele-playing black belt from SoCal advanced to the quarterfinals of the WAPL looking like a USGA veteran.
Jeong won the 17th hole with par to take a 1-up lead over Michigan State’s Allyssa Ferrell. Then she confidently hit the par-5 18th in regulation and made a routine par to end the match.
“This was so tough,” she said with great conviction.
Jeong’s parents moved to the U.S. from South Korea shortly before she was born. They own a Japanese restaurant in California called Toyo Sushi. (Jeong was surprised by the detailed nature of the interview, which only emphasized the newness of this entire experience.)
She had only hoped to make it to match play for the first time. Consider this more than beginner’s luck.