by Caleb Barron and Jenna Galloway, AJGA Communications
Leap of Faith
Since the time she was a little girl, Napaphan Phongpaiboon has wanted to play professional golf in the United States. This, in itself, doesn’t make her much different than many of her AJGA peers. She practices hard, respects the sport and takes advice from friends to play against top competition in America. But Phongpaiboon has one major complication most juniors need not worry about: To play golf in the US, she must travel more than 8,000 miles from her home in Samutprakarn, Thailand.
Phongpaiboon came to America for her AJGA debut at the Cleveland Junior Open in Avon, Ohio. She had planned to travel overseas the previous summer, but a wrist injury sidelined her for the summer. Even with an additional year of practice, Phongpaiboon knew her monthlong visit to the US would be a huge leap of faith. Although she planned to play in three consecutive AJGA tournaments in Avon, Killington, Vt., and Rochester, NY, Phongpaiboon had yet to qualify for a single event.
“You have to practice a lot before you make a decision to register for the qualifier series,” Phongpaiboon said. “It was very hard for me to get confident to come here because my friends also came here and didn’t have success in the qualifier series and couldn’t play in that tournament.”
As luck would have it, the Cleveland Junior Open TaylorMade-adidias Golf Qualifier was rained out and Phongpaiboon received entry into the tournament based on accumulated performance stars. She didn’t waste the opportunity, breaking 80 in the first two rounds before she said she struggled in the final round, finishing seventh in the Girls Division.
“I had such a bad last day I didn’t want to touch my putter,” Phongpaiboon said.
But a healthy nervousness wouldn’t let her give an inch.
“Right after that round, I went to another golf course and practiced into the night,” Phongpaiboon said. “When we come all the way from Thailand, we come with hope. If you mess up, just in one qualifier day, you lose it all. I need to play my best every day.”
The practice paid off. Phongpaiboon shot a 7-over-par 77 to qualify for her next tournament, the Killington Junior Golf Championship. She finished with a three-day tournament total 232.
Two tournaments into her American journey, Phongpaiboon’s hope has been rewarded. She will travel to Victor, NY, next week for the Ravenwood Junior Championship before heading back to Thailand. As her AJGA summer draws near to a close, Phongpaiboon can’t help but look ahead to the future.
“I’ll be back next year,” she says. “For sure.”
If Phongpaiboon gets her wish, eventually the trip will be a bit more permanent.
Napaphan Phongpaiboon dreams of playing college golf in the United States.
New England Goes Grammy: You might have heard of the band Alison Krauss and Union Station, or perhaps you’ve seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but could you have guessed that each had ties to Vermont and the AJGA?
Daniel Tyminski, father to AJGA junior Christopher Tyminski, is a Grammy award-winning bluegrass composer, vocalist and instrumentalist. He is a member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, and is best known for his updated version of the song, “Man of Constant Sorrow”, which was featured in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Tyminski won the 2001 CMA award for best single as well as a Grammy award for best Country Collaboration with vocals.