When Ariya Jutanugarn won the 2016 AIG Women’s Open, she not only claimed the first major title of her already illustrious career, but also achieved something far greater in the realms of her home country.
Heading into the final round at Woburn on the Marquess Course, Jutanugarn held a two-stroke lead over Mirim Lee at 16 under par, and was looking to become the first Thai player to ever win a major championship.
The attention was fierce on the then 20-year-old, who was rapidly becoming one of the LPGA’s biggest stars. Along with her sister Moriya, Ariya was a true darling of Thai golf.
But Jutanugarn faced a tough task ahead, with four former Women’s Open Champions in Mo Martin, Catriona Matthew, Stacy Lewis and Karrie Webb, as well as her closest rival Lee, all in contention.
After six holes, things were looking superb for ‘May’ Jutanugarn, who held a six-stroke lead over Martin and a seven-shot advantage over Lee, Lewis and Matthew.
A bogey on the par-4 9th, however, and a costly double bogey on the 13th, alongside three straight birdies from Lee, meant Jutanugarn's cushion was trimmed to just one with five holes to play.
After both players made three straight pars, Jutanugarn managed to birdie the 17th to earn some breathing room. A wonderful approach into 18 followed and she two-putted for a final round of 72 and a three-stroke victory over Lee and Martin at 16 under par.
After holing her final putt, Jutanugarn was joyously congratulated by her sister Moriya and her team. The result was momentous and greeted with huge celebrations in the sisters' homeland, as Ariya became the first Thai player to ever win a major at the tender age of 20.
The result was also a sign of things to come for the young superstar, who turns 25 today. In 2017 she reached world number one for the first time, and the following year she claimed her second major at the US Women’s Open.
Her success even inspired a feature-length biographical film made in her native Thailand. Not bad for a 25-year-old, who is already an inspiration for so many golfers around the world.