LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – Ariya Jutanugarn may be the number one player in the women’s game, but she still feels like she has things to learn.
Thursday, Jutanugarn didn’t know her celebrity playing partners at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. She had to do a Google search.
Friday, Jutanugarn knew exactly whom she was grouped with and she took advantage of the opportunity.
During the second round, the two-time major champion was grouped with Cole Swindell and Ray Allen, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and 10-time NBA All-Star. The world No. 1 took advantage of the five hours of one-on-one time with the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made to seek his advice on how to deal with the challenges of being at the forefront of her sport.
“We talked all 18 holes,” Jutanugarn said about her conversation with Allen. “I asked him how to manage when you’re the best player, how to manage everything.”
“I talked about preparation and just taking care of your body and getting rest,” Allen said. “Also being able to get away from the game. Sometimes when you're struggling and sometimes when you're doing well, you've got to get away from it."
It’s not the first time the Thai has sought help with the psychological aspects of her game. Her work with mental coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott has been widely reported. They are largely to credit for helping Jutanugarn learn to cope with the demands of being the No. 1 player in the world after she failed to make that adjustment when she first reached the summit in 2017.
For Jutanugarn, the biggest takeaway from her discussion with Allen was the need to look ahead and begin thinking about what’s next for her career.
“’You’re a top player, what’s your next goal?’” Jutanugarn said he asked her. “Not only play here and wait for somebody to share [it] with us, but we should have a next goal.”
That’s a lot to digest in the middle of a competitive round of golf, and one in which Jutanugarn was in contention. She struggled to a 67 on Friday, hitting just seven fairways and 11 greens. But what she was able to glean from Allen will stick with her much longer than the score she posted during the second round of the year.
“He taught a lot of things to me,” Jutanugarn said. “It means so much to me.”