Ariya Jutanugarn said it, and she felt it, but she didn’t fully mean it.
“I’m done. I’m done. I want to stop playing.”
Jutanugarn said on Sunday in Thailand that those were her thoughts last year as she struggled through another winless season on the LPGA Tour, one which was discombobulated and one in which she barely contended.
But Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand, Jutanugarn, 25, was again a winner. For the first time in 1,015 days, she held a trophy, making it all the more special that she did so in her homeland, that same place where she blew a two-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 2013.
“It just feels so good. Not only for Thai player to win, but I [have had a] really tough time last two years,” she said at her news conference.
“I don't know how many times I told my [mental coaches], ‘You know what, I want to rest, no more. I want to stop for a while.’”
Time goes quickly when you’re a professional golfer. One day you’re the world’s No. 1 and then just like that, you’re ranked 33rd and nearly three years removed from the winner’s circle.
One day you’re overflowing with confidence, winning major titles and being projected to dominate the game. Then just like that, the only ones who believes in you are others – your sister, your coaches, your caddie, your friends. But not you.
So what kept Jutanugarn going when she felt most down, when she talked about quitting, if only for a while? “I like to complain,” she admitted to reporters on Sunday. There’s that, the hollow threats that we all hurl.
But there was also that support. Of course from her sister, fellow pro Moriya, but also from her aforementioned mental coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, who are arguably – if there is an argument – the most influential people in women’s golf.
And, as Ariya maintained, she recognized her influence on those who look up to her, be it upcoming talent like LPGA Thailand runner up Atthaya Thitikul or kids who love watching her play and represent her nation.
This is Jutanugarn’s 11th LPGA title and her first since the 2019 Ladies Scottish Open.
She earned it by shooting a flawless 63 in the final round, making birdie on the same final hole where she made triple bogey eight years ago as an amateur to lose this tournament.
But she had to wait for the outcome. It wasn’t until Thitikul bogeyed the 17th hole and then missed a 4-footer for birdie and a playoff on the 18th that Jutanugarn was able to release her emotions.
Afterwards, in a message to Thai kids and to anyone fortunate enough to hear, Jutanugarn offered words of encouragement and perseverance. Nothing hollow about these words, which were honest with experience and spoken with conviction.
“Of course when we have a tough time we sometime [think] about giving up, but at the same time, if your goal is big enough I think you're not going to give up,” she said. “Just be patient with it and believing in yourself. And the timing of life is different. Just not compare yourself to others.
“Just do your best, and one day your turn is going to come.”