Moriya Jutanugarn from Thailand wins Duke of York Young Champions Trophy

15 year-old Moriya Jutanugarn from Thailand emerged as the eventual winner of Duke of York Young Champions Trophy after a tense 54 holes at Dundonald Links

For the first time in the nine-year history of the 54-hole Duke of York Young Champions Trophy, girls had the upper hand. Moriya Jutanugarn from Thailand, 15 years of age and barely five foot tall, finished on a two-over-par tally of 218 at Dundonald Links to win by a shot from Israel’s Laetitia Beck.  Richard Jung from Canada was the first boy in the mix, signing off in a share of third place with Spain’s Camilla Hedberg.

Jutanugarn’s closing 70, two under par, was the low round of the tournament. Ireland’s Dermot McElroy and Italy’s Claudio Vigano had the lowest rounds among the boys, though their 71s were matched by the following four girls: Beck, Hedberg, Perrine Delacour and Caroline Karsten.

In the opinion of the Duke of York, the girls were the better drivers over the week. “The boys were spraying their shots off the tee but the girls were sticking to the middle of the fairways,” he said. Beck and Hedberg, like the winner, exemplified the Duke’s observations.

Tom Lewis, the English and British Boys’ champion and a golfer who had never really seen the other sex in action before, conceded that the girls were a whole lot better than he had anticipated.

“Being beaten by girls isn’t a great feeling,” said the 18-year-old Lewis, who had a closing 77 to finish in a share of sixth place with McElroy. “I know I’m going to get a bit of stick for what’s happened but the truth is that the girls deserved their results.”  Lewis felt that the course set-up – it was ten per cent shorter for the women - was entirely fair, and that Jutanugarn’s closing 70 was nothing short of “fantastic”.

Jutanugarn, who won the R&A’s Junior Open in Southport last year, already had a couple of birdies under her belt when she made an eagle at the 350 yards ninth. Having done her usual trick of carrying the ball 250 yards and bisecting the fairway, she holed out with her wedge.

Not that she saw the ball drop. She was busy searching in the rough beyond the green when one of her playing companions looked in the hole and announced the good news.

The expectation was that Jutanugarn, who plays to a handicap of plus three, was going to wax lyrical about the merits of links golf.  However, though she appreciated that Dundonald,Links, especially in today’s sunshine, was a very special place, she said a little shyly that she did not like the wind, the bunkers, or the hard greens.

So how did she do so well?  “I was just lucky,” she suggested.

Jutuanugarn, whose father owns a selection of driving ranges and golf shops, practises for four hours every day and is aiming her game at the South East Asian Games at the end of this year and the Asian Games in 2010. After that, she hopes to play on America’s LPGA Tour.

The 16-year-old Jung, who was born in Seoul but nowadays lives in Canada, had mixed feelings about being congratulated on his performance as leading boy after a 74 and two 73s. “I would love to have beaten the girls,” said Jung, who played himself into contention by finishing his second round with three straight birdies. “They played well but it’s still a little bit shocking.”

What might shock Jung and the rest of the boys even more is that Moriya has a 13-year-old sister who is already down to plus two.

Next year’s championship is to be played at Royal St George’s from 14-16th September.

Mike Harris
Mike Harris

Mike has been a journalist all his working life, starting out as a football writer with Goal magazine in the 1990s before moving into men’s and women’s lifestyle magazines including Men's Health, In 2003 he joined Golf Monthly and in 2006 he became only the eighth editor in Golf Monthly’s 100-plus year history. His two main passions in golf are courses, having played over 400 courses worldwide, and shoes; he owns over 40 pairs.

Mike’s handicap index hovers at around 10 and he is a member of four clubs: Hartley Wintney, Royal Liverpool, Royal North Devon and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.