From left: Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem, Ariya Jutanugarn, winner of the Lalla Meryem Cup and His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, President of the Hassan II Golf Trophy Association
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn secured her first professional title at the Lalla Meryem Cup after a battle of the teenagers in Agadir.
The 17-year-old rookie from Bangkok, who won the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in Marrakech in December, again displayed her remarkable talent when she came from a stroke behind overnight leader Charley Hull to earn a three stroke victory with rounds of 69, 67, 67 and 67 for a 14 under par total at the par-71 Golf de l’Ocean.
This was only her fourth start on the LET since winning the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in Marrakech in December backing up her status of one of the new generation of superstars in women’s golf. Prior to her victory she had also finished second earlier this year to Inbee Park at the Honda LPGA Thailand and fourth at the HSBC Champions in Singapore.
Jutanugarn was fast out of the gates in the final round, immediately moving clear of fellow 17-year-old rookie Hull with a two shot swing on the first hole.
Hull started with a one stroke lead at 11 under par but was forced to salvage a good bogey on the first hole. After a burst of adrenaline, she hit her second through the green into sandy waste.
Having found her ball in a deep hole, Hull called a rules official but no evidence of a burrowing animal was found and she had to play out over the green, chip up and hole a 15-footer for bogey.
Meanwhile Jutanugarn birdied the first three holes to quickly establish a three stroke advantage and almost holed a seven-footer for birdie on the fourth.
She then birdied the seventh to get to 14 under, four clear of Hull, who then bogeyed the eighth to drop back into a share of second with American Beth Allen giving Jutanugarn a five shot lead.
Jutanugarn then dropped her first shot of the day at the par-3 ninth, after missing the green left and playing a chip shot from a grassy bank. Out in three under, she held a four shot lead over Hull and Allen at the turn.
Jutanugarn pulled five shots clear with a birdie on 10 and then all three players birdied the 11th.
Jutanugarn’s momentum stalled when she double bogeyed the par-5 15th, having driven into the bushes left of the fairway and very briefly she held only a one stroke lead over Allen. However, she holed a solid 10 foot putt on the 17th to regain a three stroke lead and at the 18th, safely two-putted for par.
After winning, Jutanugarn said: “I played very good today on the front nine and on the second nine, the par-five, it got really exciting because there was only one shot lead. I have experience from my last one and that made me a little bit nervous. Yesterday my putting was not very good but the front nine made me confident with my putting. The 15th hole, I was really scared with my driver because in the practice round I didn’t hit my driver well, so when I hit to the left, I thought, a bogey is fine, but I had seven!”
Both Jutanugarn and Hull attended the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in December, but it was Jutanugarn who took home the winner’s cheque for €48,750. She moved to the top of the LET’s ISPS Handa Order of Merit and is expected to move up from 42nd in the Rolex World Rankings when they are released on Monday morning.
When asked how she would spend the money, she replied: “It’s all for my dad! I’m going to keep playing on the European Tour and I hope to win some more.”
However she will always treasure the ornate diamond encrusted purse which she was also given as her prize.