The Jutanugarn Sisters: Peas in a pod, or chalk and cheese?
Their identities are so intertwined with one another and yet Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn are anything but similar. 22-year old Ariya likes to relax, listen to pop music and do nothing in her free time, while Moriya, two years older, loves to colour and cook. Ariya is the more outgoing and assertive, confidently firing off answers while looking you straight in the eye. Moriya, on the other hand seems more thoughtful and pensive, often allowing her younger sister to take the lead when answering questions. Ariya likes more heat in her som tam, while Moriya prefers a milder version. Ariya speaks and jokes freely while on the course, while the quieter Moriya takes on most of the golf shot demonstrations at the behest of her younger sister. Ariya is the more aggressive with her grip-it-and-rip-it approach, while Moriya is ostensibly more calculated and analytical. Both have seen success on the global golfing stage that most of us can only dream of.
I remember Ariya Jutanugarn from the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand. Playing beautifully all week with a 2-stroke lead heading into the last hole, she then triple bogeyed the last hole to ultimately lose by one to Inbee Park, in front of her home crowd no less. I wondered how this 17-year old would ever recover from such a stinging ‘van de Velde-esque’ collapse. “Actually in 2013, when I lost to Inbee with an 8 on the last hole, I was really disappointed. After that I went to the LET and only played a few tournaments before I got hurt. So I stopped playing for almost a year. It was really tough for me because I felt like I had to start all over again. I had to go to the LPGA Q-school and I didn't know if I could make it,” said Ariya who went on to experience another mental meltdown at the 2016 ANA Championship where she led by 2 shots with 3 holes to play, and ended up with a succession of bogeys to finish in 4th place. “I played really well and had pretty good chances to win, but then I started thinking too much about the outcome because. I wanted to play well, finish top 10 in every tournament but that wasn't happening as I forgot about the process.”
The pivotal moment came when the Jutanugarns started working with golf performance coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott of Vision54. Ariya who went on to win the 2016 Women’s British Open just a few months after working with the team shared, “They helped me a lot, to not think about the outcome and just to stick to the process, have fun and to be nice to myself on the course.” said Ariya.
Moriya’s journey to success took a little longer. If not for Ariya’s immense success on tour, Moriya’sstory would have been a lot more noteworthy. LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013, Moriya plugged along in the shadow of Ariya’s trophies, then finally came into her own this year with five top 10 finishes followed by her first tour victory at the 2018 Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open. It’s an incredible tale of grit and tenacity that’s taken 6 years and 156 starts to unfold. When asked what contributed to her breakthrough year, Moriya shed light into her mindset saying, “To not care about the outcome, it didn't mean I had no goal. To reach the goal, I focused on the process instead. Of course everyone wants to play better, but my goal was to stick to my process and trust it.”
Moriya further added, “The most important thing for me is knowing that young people have seen me achieve my goal.I just want to represent my country and inspire all the kids in Thailand, not just in golf. I want them to know that they can achieve their goal if they work hard and never give up.”
Commitment in every shot is key for Ariya during a round of golf. When asked whether she would hit driver more often in seeking an edge over other long hitters like Sung- Hyun Park who recently overtook her as the new World No. 1, Ariya stuck to her mental guns saying, “When I play,I only care about what I feel. If I feel good, I’ll do it, if I don't feel good, I won’t. So on some days when I feel good with my driver, I’ll just hit driver. Rankings don't matter as they keep changing week weekly anyway.”
Occasionally, past demons return to haunt her, like at the final day of the 2018 US Women’s Open where she lost a 7-stroke lead on the back nine, finding herself in a playoff against Hyo-Joo Kim. She eventually triumphed on the 4th playoff hole, signalling to the world that Ariya Jutanugarn is well on her way to achieving golfing greatness. When asked ‘What’s Next?’ Ariya said, “I want to be the golfer that improves everyday. You know, learn something new and go out and have fun, enjoy and challenge myself to get better everyday, that's it. I don't think about the future too much, I just stay present, have fun and enjoy everything and every moment in my life.”
As separately individualistic as Ariya and Moriya are, both share the same vision and goal for the foreseeable future; shared Mo, “My biggest goal is to go out and have fun. To be myself, and play golf the way that I enjoy. I am Moriya on the golf course and not anyone else.”