Thai Players Discuss Recent Tsunami

By Lisa D. MickeyMarch 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
Futures TourHer short e-mail arrived on the morning of December 27, 2004, and it carried a certain weight not seen at Futures Tour events.

It read simply: Dear friends, Just wanted all my friends to know that my family and I are all ok. We are safe in Bangkok. Hope everyone's doing well also. -Oui
Virada Nirapathpongporn, better known as 'Oui' by her friends in the United States, was at home in Bangkok, Thailand when the tsunami struck her homeland on Dec. 26th. It was a cataclysmic event that touched the nation and her region of the world in a way they had never before experienced.

'I didn't even know what a tsunami was,' said Nirapathpongporn, a second-year Futures Tour player who was a four-time All-American and NCAA champion at Duke University. 'We just don't get those, but last December, we did. It started with an earthquake on Christmas morning, and then there were earthquakes going on in five places. I never heard of a tidal wave caused by an earthquake, so that first day, I was really confused.'

Greeted by their peers for the first time this year as the Futures Golf Tour opened its season last week in Lakeland, Fla., Nirapathpongporn and Russy Gulyanamitta of Rayong, Thailand, answered questions about the event that still plagues their homeland.

'I was in San Diego when it happened, so I called my parents in Thailand to make sure they were OK,' said Gulyanamitta, who has played on the Futures Tour since 2001 and was a member of the 2004 LPGA Tour. 'My family was fine, but one of my friends in southern Thailand was missing.'

For 10 days, Gulyanamitta called and sent e-mails from California, trying to locate her friend. She scanned web sites, looking at photos of the deceased as government officials attempted to identify the dead. She called emergency workers in the low-lying area of Kaolak, on the peninsula of Thailand. Finally, she reached her friend by telephone. The woman had fled to the mountains, driving a pickup truck as fast as she could to escape the floodwaters.

'She said it was the scariest thing in the world,' said Gulyanamitta. 'She lost her business and her home, so now she lives with relatives in a village.'

Gulyanamitta has another friend who lives outside Phi Phi Island who was hit by the raging waters of the tsunami, but escaped with only minor injuries. She was in her room sleeping when the wave smashed into her home, caving in a window and door and leaving her in a room filled with water.

'She couldn't get out and she told me that she really thought she was going to die,' said Gulyanamitta. 'Then, at the last minute, the water sucked out of the room. My friend feels so lucky.'

Like Nirapathpongporn, Gulyanamitta said she had never heard of a tsunami before her homeland was struck. Once it happened, the Japanese word became a part of global news headlines throughout the world. Fans and friends who had hosted players for Futures Tour tournaments called and sent e-mails to the Tour's headquarters inquiring about the well-being of the Futures Tour's Thai players.

'I got a lot of e-mails when I was home and it made me realize that many people around the world were concerned and took this news very seriously,' said Nirapathpongporn, who also had a friend on an island who escaped the surging water with only cuts and bruises.

Nirapathponporn's mother, Supranee, a radiologist in Bangkok, was busy for many nights until 2 a.m., helping with airlifted medical emergencies. She worked with surgeons and dentists, x-raying patients and helping with wound care of mostly tourists.

'I was upset, but my dad [who's a retired surgeon] and my mom could handle it because it's their occupation and they've seen it all,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'There was nothing I could do but to help out financially, which I'll continue to do.'

The players noted that the region struck was largely a European tourist destination, attracting numerous visitors each year from Sweden -- a nation hard-hit in the mortality count following the tsunami. Gulyanamitta observed that the fatalities could have climbed even higher if the tsunami had struck during the New Year celebration, when international tourists typically flock to the region's beaches and businesses. She generally travels to southern Thailand once or twice a year after the monsoon season in March or April.

'I was home three weeks ago and there was still a lot of community spirit of people helping out,' said Gulyanamitta, who holds an engineering degree. 'My friends who are engineers were helping to rebuild and many people gave blood. It will be like starting over and it will probably take a year or two to recover from the disaster.'

Futures Tour member Naree Song, who was not in Lakeland last week, described a fortunate swing of 'fate' when reached by telephone. Song, whose mother is Thai, said if she had earned her exempt LPGA Tour status last December at the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament, her entire family had planned to vacation in Phi Phi Island to celebrate over the holidays during the time that the tsunami struck. Song just missed getting her full LPGA card, so the family stayed in Orlando.

'We have a lot of friends who have restaurants and businesses on the island,' said Song, twin sister of LPGA Tour player Aree Song. 'The roof fell in on one of our friends and she held on to a piece of something until she was rescued. That was an eye-opener for us. Aree told me everything happens for a reason.'

All three of the players have answered e-mails and telephone calls ever since the tsunami disaster and fortunately, all, along with their families, are fine. Most of all, they are grateful for the public's concern and pleased that many nations stepped in to help in a time of crisis.

'I heard from people that I haven't heard from in a while,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'Everyone helped out in a bad time. I also felt proud of my country that week. We were helpful to tourists and to people from around the world. I know that for a while, Thailand will probably be associated with the word 'tsunami ' and people will only think of the tragedy. But we hope they will still want to come back.'
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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.