Pajaree Anannarukarn used, and willed, the luck of the Irish to her first career win as a professional.
The fact the 22-year-old Thai marks her golf ball with the phrase “good luck” and that she captured her first LPGA Tour victory on Sunday in Northern Ireland at the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management is probably no coincidence. It took 74 holes, but she showcased the tough Irish spirit with a final-round 70 at Galgorm Golf Club and par on each of the two playoff holes.
“I just feel like I always want to look at something, especially on the golf ball,” said Anannarukarn, who defeated Emma Talley in the sudden-death playoff. “I always put ‘good luck’ on it to see some positive things. I feel like everything I went through today and especially on hole 6, I think I was really lucky and enough that I was able to pull out this win.”
Speaking of No. 6, Anannarukarn recorded a triple bogey after unintentionally picking up a ball still in play. She responded with birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn 2-under par and tied for second, two shots back of Talley. Then on the back nine, Anannarukarn responded to a bogey on the par-4 16th with a birdie on No. 17, which Talley matched as the pair finished at 16-under to force extra golf.
Anannarukarn needed an 8-foot par putt on No. 18 in regulation to keep the luck running. And on the third dance of the day with the par-5, she rolled in a 9-foot tickler to reach the winner’s circle.
“The pin position was really tough and I had a long distance going into the green on the third shot on the first playoff hole. I’m actually really glad that I hit the green but left myself like 60 feet. Just really happy that I made the two-putt,” Anannarukarn said. “On the second playoff [hole], it went even longer than I expected. I wouldn’t say upset, but just wish I could give myself a shorter birdie putt. It was about 75 feet from there but really glad I made that two-putt again.”
In a year that has seen her friends and role models Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn win at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, it was a special moment for her father, Veerapol, to see his daughter claim victory live in-person. Anannarukarn becomes the fifth Rolex First-Time Winner of the 2021 LPGA Tour season.
“He has always been by my side from the beginning of my career,” said Anannarukarn, who went 26 for 28 on putts inside 10 feet over the weekend. “To be able to share it with him was very, very special.”
Talley secured a career-best finish of runner-up, including an admirable 3-under 70 in the final round. A fellow American in Jennifer Kupcho (71) ended third, one back, while Ladies European Tour member Atthaya Thitikul (70) was fourth. In the men’s draw, Daniel Gavins secured his maiden European Tour title with a bogey-free 65 at Galgorm, coming back from seven shots behind.