By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
AUSTIN, Texas — Maybe this offers insight into Chirapat Jao-Javanil, the best woman ever to play golf at Oklahoma and maybe the best to play, period.
Her interviewer, trying to get his facts straight, the topic being how the last time OU won a Big 12 championship it began a process that led to a best-ever sixth-place finish at the NCAA tournament, says this:
Two years ago, you won it, right, the team finished sixth? You won the conference, yes, two years ago?
“Second,” Jao-Javanil says.
Like it’s still fresh.
Both her interviewer and she are right.
Two years ago, OU indeed won the conference tournament before going on to a sixth-place national finish. Only Jao-Javanil remembers she faltered at the end of that conference tourney, played at Lawrence Country Club, and had to settle for …
Interpret it however you like, but first understand that golf is a singular game sometimes gerrymandered into a team sport. You help the team by helping yourself.
If you find it bothersome that the best Sooner ever to play the game thinks of herself before her team when remembering the day she lost a chance at Big 12 immortality, remember that the great ones always remember the ones that got away.
Or, if you feel sorry for her because she’s just so darn hard on herself, don’t worry. About a month after finishing second in the conference tourney, Jao-Javanil won an individual NCAA championship, the only one any Sooner has ever won, leading the Sooners to that sixth-place finish.
Also, here’s the thing.
She may do it again.
She’s a stroke back, but boy did she look ready to win on the back nine Saturday afternoon at the UT Golf Club, which is every bit as beautiful as Whispering Pines, where the men are playing, and no stuffier than, say, Karsten Creek.
Actually, Jao-Javanil’s a stroke back of Texas’ Natalie Karcher, who’s put together rounds of 71 and 69 for a 3-under par 140 36-hole total on the 6,370-yard course. Javenil’s at 141 after rounds of 69 and 72. And she did it by hitting what seemed like every fairway and every green, only failing to get putts to drop even as she seemed to burn every lip.
The team — oh, yeah — at 7-over par 583 after rounds of 291 and 292, is three strokes in front of the home-standing Longhorns, who are six strokes in front of Kansas and nine strokes in front of Iowa State.
Jao-Javanil would be tied with Karcher if not for a 3-putt bogey on No. 15. Of course, she came back on No. 17, stuffing her approach about five feet beyond the pin and draining the putt like she knew it was going in. Next, on 18, from almost 40 feet, she rolled a left-to-right breaker down the hill that everybody’s still trying to understand how it didn’t fall in the cup, too.
Beyond the prospect of repeated history, her conference performance is doubly cool when it’s understood that only twice this season has Jao-Javanil even been the low Sooner and, last time out, she went 79-76 before closing with a 72 at the PING/ASU Invitational.
“It’s a lot of things,” she said.
She was a passenger in a car accident that left her not herself physically for an extended period. That then conspired to leave her mentally gun-shy.
“I’ve been tentative,” she says.
Only now the conspiracy is working the other way. She’s recovered physically. Her mental game is back. It’s her last collegiate postseason. Timing demands she bring her best.
Here she is.
“It’s exciting that it’s coming together toward the end of her career,” Sooner coach Veroinique Drouin-Luttrell says. “Hopefully it’s going to continue after she graduates from college and goes on to a pro career.”
It’s a feel-good story.
It’s history repeating, with the possibility of Jao-Javanil improving on her two-year-old runner-up performance with 18 strong holes today. And, still better, the team could well improve on sixth place when they get to the NCAA championships, beginning May 20 in Tulsa.
Because when Jao-Javanil’s playing well, everybody can breathe a little easier. And that might have had something to do with Kaitlin Rohrback, another Sooner senior, playing No. 5, coming in at 71 Saturday. It might have something to do with no Sooner coming in any higher than 75 after 36 holes.
Maybe today, OU really goes low.
It’s funny how things work out.
Jao-Javanil, and her teammates, too, had not been themselves. The last couple of days, they’ve been much better versions of themselves.
Today, perhaps, they’ll be something close to their best selves, winning the conference and building for more.
“Our pattern is changing,” Jao-Javanil says, thinking of the team before herself.
Of course, that could change today. Thinking only of herself, she can go win a conference championship.
Don’t worry. Her team will be fine with it.
Follow me @clayhorning
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