May 25, 2012
FRANKLIN, Tenn. - University of Oklahoma sophomore Chirapat Jao-Javanil entered play at this week's NCAA Championships in Franklin, Tenn., as the country's 59th-ranked golfer. On Friday, she finished the tournament as OU's first ever women's golf national champion.
Jao-Javanil (her full name is pronounced CHEER-uh-pat Jow JAV-uh-nil) shot a final-round 2-under-par 70 Friday at the Vanderbilt Legends Club to finish atop the 126-player leaderboard and defeat second-place Brooke Pancake of Alabama by four shots.
The win for Jao-Javanil -- her third in 11 tournaments this year -- lifted 28th-ranked OU to a tie for sixth place out of 24 teams, matching the program's best-ever national finish (also came in sixth in 2002). The Sooners, who started the day in a tie for ninth place and were in 13th place after Wednesday's second round, shot a final-round 291 (+3) to finish tied with fifth-ranked Arizona State at 1,179 strokes (+27).
Jao-Javanil, a two-time All-Big 12 honoree who finished second at the conference championship in April, entered Friday's fourth round tied for first place out of 126 competitors, but pulled away with the help of three birdies over her final nine holes.
"This all feels so surreal," said Jao-Javanil, who hails from Thailand and goes by the nickname 'Ja.' "This is an incredible honor for me and I'm really happy that I could represent my family, OU and the country of Thailand. I'm really happy that I had an opportunity to compete alongside such a talented field of golfers. It's such an honor to even be in contention with golfers like Brooke Pancake. I just think I played solid throughout the whole week and was able to keep myself calm."
Jao-Javanil joins men's golfers Walter Emery in 1933 and Jimmy Vickers in 1952 as OU national champions in the sport. By winning the national title, she is automatically crowned a first-team All-American.
In 72 holes of play this week, she recorded 15 birdies, 48 pars and just nine bogeys.
Friday's final round required a bit of an adjustment for Jao-Javanil.
"I struggled a little bit in the beginning today from all of the attention and people following my round," she said. "But I got my head in the game and concentrated on what I could do and not what was around me."
Third-year OU head coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell was understandably excited for Jao-Javanil.
"I'm really proud of Ja," said Drouin-Luttrell, who was recently named Big 12 Coach of the Year. "I remember when we sat in my office on her recruiting trip and I told her I thought she had the potential to be OU's first first-team All-American. Now it turns out that she actually became OU's first national title winner. She played solid all week and had a great season. This is an incredible accomplishment for Ja and our program."
Also performing well on the final day of play were OU junior Taylor Schmidt and sophomore Anne-Catherine Tanguay. Schmidt turned in an even-par round of 72, her best 18 holes of the tournament, while Tanguay carded a 1-over 73. The pair tied for 21st place with a four-round 294 (+6).
Junior Jacki Marshall shot a second-consecutive 76 on Friday to finish in 112th place (+23). Sophomore Emily Collins, turned in an 80 and tied for 117th place (+26).
"As a team, we really fought today," said Drouin-Luttrell. "We needed to post a good score to move up the leaderboard. I'm really proud of the way we competed and it's an honor to finish as the sixth best team in the nation. With all of these girls returning next year, I think the future looks bright for Oklahoma golf."
In a team contest that went down to the wire, Alabama fended off USC to win the national title by one shot. Pancake's par on the 18th hole gave the Crimson Tide (+19) a one-stroke victory over the Trojans. LSU (+21) finished in third place, Virginia (+23) in fourth and South Carolina (+24) in fifth.
Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M were the three other Big 12 Conference teams participating this week. Texas tied for 13th place (+39) while Baylor and Texas A&M shared 16th (+41).
The Sooners wrapped up their second straight stellar season under Drouin-Luttrell. Over the past two years, OU has posted 14 top-five finishes in its 22 events, including 11 top-three showings and four titles. The Sooners won the Big 12 Championship last month. This year's NCAA Championships appearance was their first since 2002.