Thai Players Discuss Recent Tsunami
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.'
Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship
Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.
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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake
Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.
Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.
Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.
Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.
Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.
Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?
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Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.
It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.
A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.
Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.
Watch: 100mph storm destroys tent at St. Andrews
The first named storm of the season struck Wednesday, bringing 100 mph gusts, killing two people and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power in parts of Ireland, Scotland and England.
According to the Courier no one was injured in the St. Andrews area, but a video posted from the home of golf shows just how powerful the storm was as wind absolutely destroyed one of the hospitality tents set up in advance of the Dunhill Links Championship:
TAKE CARE – ST ANDREWS OLD COURSE AREA— Fife Police (@FifePolice) September 19, 2018
Police in Fife are asking the public to take care around St Andrews Old Course after reports of tents from the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships site being blown about. #stormy #stormAli #staysafe
While plenty of clean-up is sure to be needed, officials say the Dunhill Links, which also be conducted at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, will go on as scheduled October 4-7.