Moriya Jutanugarn is bringing home a special piece of silverware to Thailand, after becoming the first-ever Thai player to win Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year.
“It means a lot,” said Moriya. “I feel like I did it for my country, for my family, for my fans, for Thailand. I’m pretty sure everybody is going to be really happy.”
The award is a boost to Jutanugarn fortunes, which were hit when Moriya’s sister Ariya had to pull out of the LPGA Qualifying Final Stage next month as she has yet to recover from a shoulder injury.
Moriya grabbed the Rookie of the Year lead early in the season, before Caroline Masson of the US overtook her with a mid-season run. The European Solheim Cup Team standout trailed Moriya by five points entering the Safeway Classic but notched two top-10 finishes to snatch the lead from the Thai. Masson held a mere 11-point advantage entering this week’s CME Group Titleholders, but finished 61st in the season’s final event, while Moriya fired rounds of 70-72-74-72 to finish tied for 33rd. The result meant Moriya beat Masson by one point to become the first-ever player from Thailand to win a season-ending award on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s really exciting because I knew I had a four-foot putt on the last hole to finish 33rd,” said Moriya. “I was just like, ‘come on, pick it up’. I wasn’t nervous when I was playing but afterwards I was like ‘oh my gosh, I’m nervous’.”
Coming off a win at the 2012 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, Moriya’s rookie season exceeded expectations, with six top-20 finishes including a season-best tie for fourth at the Women’s Australian Open.
“It’s better than I expected because I made it at Q-School. I wanted to just keep my card,” said Moriya. “It was way better than I thought.”