MIDLAND, Mich. | At least they didn’t cry. On the 12 other occasions that either Moriya or Ariya Jutanugarn has won a LPGA Tour event, the other sister has been a blubbering mess, not even attempting to hold back the tears of joy they pour onto their sibling. But when they win one together as a team, as they did on Saturday with a stellar fourball 59 at the Great Lakes Bay Invitational to finish the week 24-under par, there was nothing. Nary a whimper and not a moist eye among them.
“I had tears when she went in the water on the last hole. I'm like, Mo, come on,” Ariya said with a chuckle, referring to her sister’s chubby iron shot on the closing par-3 that found the pond that surrounds the green.
“I would say maybe it was because we weren’t really thinking about winning the tournament that much. We just had a bit of excitement on the last hole, especially. But all we were thinking about is that we really enjoy every moment on the course.”
Team M&M for Mo and May, family nicknames by which they are commonly known, began the day at 13-under and in a crowd two shots off the lead held jointly by the defending champions, Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura, and Aditi Ashok and another Thai, Pajaree Anannarukarn. Not only were the Jutanugarns not in the final game, they weren’t in the penultimate or antepenultimate grouping. So, even though the win was a foregone conclusion after May rolled in a 35-footer on the final hole for birdie, they had time to chat with Jim Gallagher, Jr., who was on ground with the group of CBS, then spend some time with local reporters before signing autographs, video call their family back in Thailand, play with their dog and check their text messages before the trophy presentation.
“After (Mo) hit her first shot (into the water on 18), we talked a lot – ‘Do you want to hit another one?’ And we thought you shouldn't hit,” May said. “Then when I saw my (35-foot) putt, I'm like, you know, just make sure I two-putt, otherwise I'm going to make her go back and hit from the tee.
“I didn’t want that to happen, so I told myself, make sure you two-putt. And I just made the putt, so, yeah.”
That putt capped an 11-birdie day for the sisters and a week that left everyone overjoyed. Midland, Mich., and Midland Country Club could not have been more accommodating.
“This reminds me of what the Corning Classic was like back when the whole town would turn out and make it incredibly special,” Dottie Pepper told me on Friday after she walked the golf course. Pepper was part of the CBS crew that gave the Dow the kind of network coverage it deserved. “The flowers on the side of the road coming in here; the fact that everyone in town is talking about the tournament and welcoming everyone – it’s really special. We need more places like this.”
And we need more winners like the Jutanugarns, whose sisterly banter after the victory was exactly what you would expect. At one point, May, the younger of the two, said something in Thai and Mo, ever the older sister, turned her head and rolled her eyes.
“Most of the time, when we're on the golf course, we don't really talk about golf,” Mo said. “But today, it seems like we talked a lot more about golf. But it was just more like I kind of kept complaining about my putts not going in the hole and she kept making putts. I was like, ‘Oh, she’s going to beat me because last time we tried to count who made more birdies.”
At that point, May interjected, “Still me.”
Mo shook her head and said, “This time it's still her. But that's okay. Thank you for that, too.
“I'll say we talked a lot more about golf (today). But we also tried to calm each other down, just saying, ‘We got this.’”
They did indeed have it. The strategy the two brought into the final round seemed to work perfectly.
“Last night we were talking about the flight because we have a flight tonight to Evian (France),” May said. “We were saying, ‘Should we change or not change the flight?’ We decided not to change it. But I said, ‘Okay, make sure you run fast to the car. We have to drive two hours if we want to make the flight.’
“But just before we went to the tee, I walked to my sister and told her, ‘You know what, Mo, today the goal is to try to make birdie on every hole. I don't care if we both make bogey. If we make bogey, after that we try to make birdie again. That's the goal today,’ I told her. And we agreed to have the same goal.”
Mo agreed. “I felt like out there it's about momentum and we had pretty good momentum at the start,” she said. “It's just more like supporting (each other) and I had great support from my sister this week. No matter what, she probably hit a few trees out there, but she still made a lot of birdies for me, so I forgive her. We really enjoyed it.”
There was another collective chuckle. Then the inevitable follow-up question came. Did they make the flight to France?
“No,” they said in unison. “We’ll go tomorrow.”