She went on her phone, drank a soda, and watched the late-afternoon drama unfold in front of her on television before finally heading to the driving range to warm up.
But all that time to relax did nothing to Thidapa Suwannapura’s nerves, as she couldn’t have played the first playoff hole at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I any better. Her center-cut birdie putt was an exclamation point on a week that was a long-time coming.
It showed that just because your last name isn’t ‘Jutanugarn’ it doesn’t mean you can’t be an LPGA Tour winner from Thailand.
And it was just another week on the LPGA Tour where it showed how global a tour it truly is.
With Suwannapura’s win, she became the third Thai winner in 2018 – after both of the Jutanugarn sisters – and even though it took 120 LPGA Tour starts, the victory was worth the wait.
“When you start playing on tour, the first couple years you're fresh. You're like a rookie, and you just go out there and play golf. But since you keep continue playing and more and more every year, the belief in yourself is really important to keep you up there, because the more missed cut it is, or you feel down, feel tired. It just means a lot for me to believe in myself more and more,” she said. “Especially after this week, I feel like I am good enough to be out here.”
Suwannapura fired a 6-under-par 65 Sunday, tied for the low round of the day, and made just one bogey. She closed out her round going eagle-birdie on No’s 17 and 18. She fired a matching 65 on Thursday as well to kick-start the tournament, and she never looked back.
“I did not think or expect that 14 (under) would be good enough, because I know there were two par-5s coming in on 17 and 18, and it's a good opportunity for them to make birdie. I was just chilling in the clubhouse, you know, being silly and stuff, trying to relax, just watching the Golf Channel and see what they're doing,” she said. “Now, like, ‘oh, I have to go warm-up and try to win the tournament.’”
In 2015 Suwannapura almost had to give up the game entirely after having an aggressive surgery on her back. A piece of her back was broken, so a surgery had to be performed on her spine. She was unsure if she could even play golf again, let alone contend for a title alongside the best golfers in the world.
“I didn't think I'd be able to play golf again because it's a big surgery and it's really dangerous. And I was thinking, ‘oh, what should I do if I don't play golf?’ But after that I came back, practiced, and tried to play golf again,” she said. “I had a medical year, and just kept working hard, and now I'm grateful to be out here.”
The timing for Suwannapura’s victory was impeccable as well, as she locked in her spot in the RICOH Women’s British Open in two weeks.
She said after the victory was confirmed and she was dripping with water, sprayed on her by her family after her final birdie putt dropped, that she had spent most of the year just trying to keep her card.
Indeed, her best result to this point on the season was a tie for 18th at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. She showed signs of good play that week with a second-round 64, her lowest round of her LPGA Tour career. She had missed six cuts up to this point in the year and sat 99th in the Race to the CME Globe.
“Finally all my work I've been doing has come out and shown up today,” she said.
And another Thailand flag has shown up on the top of an LPGA Tour leaderboard.