Notebook: Sooners' play backs up No. 3 ranking
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Chirapat Jao-Javanil has a very simple explanation for how her Oklahoma team climbed to No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings – and for how it has held tightly to that position.
“We just really enjoy each other’s company,” she said. Maybe more teams should take notice.
Jao-Javanil is the defending NCAA individual champion. She won her fifth career college victory on March 17 at the Gator Women’s Invite as her team finished second by three strokes to defending NCAA champion Alabama. Oklahoma and Florida overtook Alabama halfway through the final round, and the tournament was so close that the entire field spent several minutes roaming around the scoreboards, waiting to find out who should be celebrating.
If the Sooners’ No. 3 ranking doesn’t say enough about this program, then that St. Patrick’s Day afternoon should. Oklahoma actively chased the Crimson Tide, and nearly won a fourth victory on the season. Alabama is ranked No. 4 by Golfweek.
“The field was really good here,” head coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell said. “We knew we would have to play well. The girls were ready for it coming down the stretch.”
Jao-Javanil, of Thailand, may be the most recognizeable player on this team because of her NCAA victory, but Drouin-Luttrell has had the same feeling about that since Jao-Javanil won last spring: The significance of what she did still hasn’t set in. It might never.
Drouin-Luttrell generally travels three juniors, a sophomore and a senior. She has only been at Oklahoma since 2009, but in that time the Sooners have risen from No. 60 in Golfweek’s rankings to their current No. 3 ranking.
“From Day 1 when I got the job, I’ve been pushing them to being one of the best teams in the country,” Drouin-Luttrell said.
As for Jao-Javanil, who goes by @princess_ja on Twiter, is she’s much more likely to tweet about food than golf. “I love food,” she says simply. One of Jao-Javnail’s strenghts is to be able to turn her mind on and off on the golf course. She benefits from not thinking about golf all the time.
“I feel like sometimes you can drain yourself mentally because you’re always thinking,” she said.
When she has been talking golf lately, it’s been putting. Jao-Javanil recently switched to a new Odyssey D.A.R.T. putter, which has improved her game around the greens. Jao-Javanil says all her teammates spend their share of time around the green, which might also explain the Sooners’ success. Among Oklahoma’s three victories this season were 18- and 29-shot victories.
“We definitely practice a lot of short game,” Jao-Javanil said. “We feel confident and we go out there, and things go our way. When you add four people playing confidently and not making mistakes, it leaves a big gap between us and other people.”
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New No. 1: Annie Park technically could still be in high school, but after just three tournaments with USC, the 17-year-old is the top-ranked college player in the nation.
Park graduated early from MacArthur High Scool in Levittown, N.Y., to join the USC roster in January. Her debut as a Trojan was at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. USC finished second, and Park finished 18th. Park finished eighth two weeks later at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate and was medalist at the Bruin Wave Invitational. USC won both tournaments.
Park is the third player this spring to hold the top spot in Golfweek’s individual rankings. Texas Tech senior Kimberly Kaufman ended the fall as No. 1 before Oklahoma State senior Kelsey Vines took over in February.
USC also is Golfweek’s top-ranked team.
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Short shots: Boston College won its first event since 2011 by finishing atop the 28-team field at the rain-shortened C&F Bank Invitational. The team shot 3-over 598 at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., and claimed three players inside the top 5. . . . The C&F Bank Intercollegiate also marked the first official start for the newly formed Navy women’s golf team. It finished 27th.