Ariya Jutanugarn proved – again – she is a future star for the professional ranks.
By birdieing the final four holes at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Thursday, she cinched victory at the Junior PGA Championship and became only the sixth girl to win the tournament more than once.
Jutanugarn shot a 5-under 67 to finish the four-day tournament at 14 under, three strokes ahead of Samantha Wagner and five ahead of Alison Lee.
“She’s amazing. She hits it 10 feet past the hole and thinks it’s too long. She hits it 10 feet short of the hole and thinks it’s too short. She’s awesome. She’s the Tiger Woods of junior golf right now, and we’re all amazed by her,” said Lee, who had a one-stroke lead after 15 holes, but then hit into a bunker.
Jutanugarn, 16, from Thailand, finished fourth here in 2010 and won the tournament by 10 strokes in 2011.
“I’m so proud,” said Jutanugarn, who hopes to play professionally in Europe next year. “This is my second year winning here and against the best players from around the world, this is a big tournament for me.”
She is the first back-to-back winner since In-Bee Park in 2001 and 2002.
“This year, it was so different,” Jutanugarn said. “Alison played so well down the stretch and even though I didn’t play with her, I saw it on the scoreboard and I was so excited for her. But then I knew, uh, oh, I had to play better. … I didn’t think I had to make birdies, but I tell myself all the time, ‘I’m going to make it.’
There was equal drama on the boys side, where Robby Shelton, 16, of Wilmer, Ala., shot a 70 to finish at 13 under, three ahead of Cameron Champ.
“I played solid, and it was a huge win,” said Shelton, whose third-round 64 set a course record at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills. “My round (Thursday) got me up there on top of the leader board and since I played like that, I knew I could go out there today and play steady.”
He and Champ were neck-and-neck, though, until the 15th hole, when Champ hit into a hazard and triple-bogeyed the par-5.
On No. 18, though, Champ chipped in for 72, to get second place and an automatic spot on America’s Junior Ryder Cup team, along with Shelton and Wagner. Lee and Beau Hossler also got spots because they lead in points for the year.
“I’m very proud and very excited that I’ll get to do that,” Champ said.
Adam Wood of Zionsville finished third in the boys field at 9 under, after a final-round 68.
Ariya’s sister, Moriya, took fourth on the girls side at 8 under, including a 71 Friday.
Notes: Sycamore Hills will play host to the U.S. Girls Championship, a United States Golf Association event, next summer. … Sources told The Journal Gazette the club could be in line to get a Web.com Tour event – that’s one step below the PGA Tour – as soon as 2013, too. And the PGA of America said it would like to come back as well.