If there are golf demons, they’re just memories posing as something more sinister.

They’re bad memories.

They’re echoes of failure that sit on a player’s shoulder whispering destructive reminders.

That’s what made Ariya Jutanugarn’s victory Sunday at the Yokohama Tire Classic such a special triumph. She didn’t just hold off  Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Amy Yang coming home on the back nine of the Senator Course in Prattville, Ala.

With all due respect to those formidable competitors, Jutanugarn beat a tougher pair of foes. She beat the memories of two epic collapses.

And Jutanugarn, 20, didn’t just beat those golf demons. She beat all the doubts that followed her after she tore the labrum in her right shoulder three years ago, an injury that robbed her of the strength and confidence many thought would take her to the top of the game.

Jutanugarn triumphed over all of that Sunday in Alabama.

“It’s great because she was really struggling with her confidence,” Gary Gilchrist, her new swing coach, told GolfChannel.com. “It’s great how she’s turned her game around.”

A little more than a month ago, Jutanugarn was two shots ahead with three holes to go at the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship. She blew the lead bogeying all three of those holes and lost toLydia Ko. The championship ended with Jutanugarn snap hooking her final drive into the water.

“The last three holes, I really get nervous,” Jutanugarn said.

The collapse added to the weight on Jutanugarn’s shoulders, because three years before that she blew a chance to win her first LPGA title at the Honda LPGA Thailand in equally heartbreaking fashion. She took a two-shot lead to the final hole there, looking to become the first player from Thailand to win an LPGA event, but she watched her homeland wince and groan, instead. She made triple bogey and lost to Inbee Park.

Yes, Jutanugarn was only 17 when she lost to Park, but when she collapsed at the ANA, people wondered if the dots were connected.

Was this once immensely gifted player lacking something internal necessary to close out?

Jutanugarn answered on Sunday with strength of heart and mind.

After a bogey at the 17th reopened a door of doubt, she slammed it shut getting up and down for par at the end.

“Last putt, my hands shake, my legs shake,” Jutanugarn said. “I not have it this bad before, my putter shaking.”

This time Jutanugarn beat those nerves and became the first Thai to win an LPGA title. She did so on Mother’s Day, with her mother, Narumon, and her sister, Moriya, watching greenside.

“Good thing in my life, my mom and my sister always trust in me,” Ariya said.

When Jutanugarn turned pro three years ago, she looked as if she were on the fast track to stardom. She looked ready to challenge Ko and Lexi Thompsonas the best young players in the game. She won a Ladies European Tour event in one of her first starts as a rookie on that tour and didn’t finish worse than a tie for fourth in five starts playing LPGA events via sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifying. Still 17, she rocketed to No. 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

And then Jutanugarn hurt herself.

In a practice round at the 2013 LPGA Championship, Jutanugarn playfully chased her sister off a tee box and stumbled down a steep slope. That’s how she tore up her shoulder. She underwent corrective surgery and was out for eight months. But when Jutanugarn returned in 2014, she still wasn’t right. Her shoulder still hurt, forcing her to change her swing to a more over-the-top move. It nearly robbed her of the strength of her game – her power.

“When you go through an injury as an athlete, and you aren’t playing, your mind takes over, and your mind takes you in all different directions,” Gilchrist said.

Jutanugarn made it through LPGA Q School at the end of 2014, and she showed a few flashes of her former self last year, but she had plummeted to No. 124 in the world. She also missed 10 consecutive cuts. Ariya and Moriya sought out Gilchrist together at the start of this year, and they’ve been working together ever since. Ariya came to Gilchrist with no confidence in her driver, the best weapon in her bag when she was at her best. She was hitting it all over the place.

“I think Ariya started losing trust in what she was doing,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist went to work on improving both Ariya’s and Moriya’s transition, on their move into the ball and impact position. Gilchrist also said they worked on changing their focus to what was working instead of what wasn’t working.

Slowly, confidence began to return.

“At one point, Ariya told me, `I’m going to win this year,’” Gilchrist said.

That was before the ANA collapse, but Gilchrist said Jutanugarn was more emboldened than discouraged finishing solo fourth at the ANA Inspiration.

“She walked away saying `I can do this, I can win,’” Gilchrist said. “If she didn’t believe she had what it takes to win, she wouldn’t have won this one.”

 

POS GOLFERTRKCNTSCOREWINNINGSR1R2R3R4TOTAL 
1  
Ariya Jutanugarn
  THA -14 $195,000 70 69 63 72 274  
T2  
Stacy Lewis
  USA -13 $91,733 71 68 68 68 275  
T2  
Morgan Pressel
  USA -13 $91,733 69 68 70 68 275  
T2  
Amy Yang
  KOR -13 $91,733 71 68 69 67 275  
5  
Caroline Hedwall
  SWE -12 $54,362 75 65 68 68 276  
T6  
Candie Kung
    -11 $35,912 69 72 70 66 277  
T6  
Minjee Lee
  AUS -11 $35,912 67 70 68 72 277  
T6  
Ryann O'Toole
  USA -11 $35,912 70 67 68 72 277  
T6  
Hee Young Park
  KOR -11 $35,912 71 70 69 67 277  
T10  
Brittany Lang
  USA -10 $24,819 71 70 70 67 278  
T10  
Gerina Piller
  USA -10 $24,819 71 68 69 70 278  
T10  
So Yeon Ryu
  KOR -10 $24,819 70 65 71 72 278  
T13  
Carlota Ciganda
  ESP -9 $20,953 74 72 68 65 279  
T13  
Pornanong Phatlum
  THA -9 $20,953 75 65 70 69 279  
T15  
Laetitia Beck
  ISR -8 $17,659 65 73 70 72 280  
T15  
Cydney Clanton
  USA -8 $17,659 71 71 68 70 280  
T15  
Sarah Jane Smith
  AUS -8 $17,659 70 70 70 70 280  
T15  
Jing Yan
  CHN -8 $17,659 73 68 69 70 280  
T19  
Lindy Duncan
  USA -7 $15,155 75 69 70 67 281  
T19  
Jodi Ewart Shadoff
  ENG -7 $15,155 73 69 70 69 281  
T19  
Anna Nordqvist
  SWE -7 $15,155 75 66 71 69 281  
T22  
Brittany Altomare
  USA -5 $12,614 73 69 66 75 283  
T22  
Mi Hyang Lee
  KOR -5 $12,614 75 68 73 67 283  
T22  
Min Lee
    -5 $12,614 72 72 68 71 283  
T22  
Brittany Lincicome
  USA -5 $12,614 72 67 71 73 283  
T22  
Caroline Masson
  DEU -5 $12,614 70 68 71 74 283  
T22  
Haru Nomura
  JPN -5 $12,614 72 71 68 72 283  
T22  
Alena Sharp
  CAN -5 $12,614 73 67 71 72 283  
T29  
Brooke Henderson
  CAN -4 $10,147 72 73 68 71 284  
T29  
Vicky Hurst
  USA -4 $10,147 69 73 73 69 284  
T29  
Jennifer Johnson
  USA -4 $10,147 71 71 71 71 284  
T29  
Paula Reto
  ZAF -4 $10,147 71 68 74 71 284  
T33  
Marina Alex
  USA -3 $7,805 75 70 70 70 285  
T33  
Q Baek
  KOR -3 $7,805 71 74 69 71 285  
T33  
Simin Feng
  CHN -3 $7,805 72 70 72 71 285  
T33  
Sandra Gal
  DEU -3 $7,805 71 73 68 73 285  
T33  
Tiffany Joh
  USA -3 $7,805 73 69 71 72 285  
T33  
Hyo Joo Kim
  KOR -3 $7,805 71 68 71 75 285  
T33  
Gaby Lopez
  MEX -3 $7,805 73 72 70 70 285  
T33  
Nontaya Srisawang
  THA -3 $7,805 74 72 69 70 285  
T33  
Ayako Uehara
  JPN -3 $7,805 72 69 71 73 285  
T42  
Haeji Kang
  KOR -2 $6,062 76 69 68 73 286  
T42  
Annie Park
  USA -2 $6,062 67 71 75 73 286  
T42  
Michelle Wie
  USA -2 $6,062 71 72 70 73 286  
T45  
Perrine Delacour
  FRA -1 $4,777 70 70 76 71 287  
T45  
Austin Ernst
  USA -1 $4,777 73 69 73 72 287  
T45  
Christina Kim
  USA -1 $4,777 70 73 73 71 287  
T45  
Alejandra Llaneza
  MEX -1 $4,777 68 73 73 73 287  
T45  
Ai Miyazato
  JPN -1 $4,777 70 74 72 71 287  
T45  
Su-Hyun Oh
  AUS -1 $4,777 77 67 68 75 287  
T45  
Lee-Anne Pace
  ZAF -1 $4,777 71 74 73 69 287  
T45  
Samantha Richdale
  CAN -1 $4,777 72 73 70 72 287  
T45  
Rachel Rohanna
  USA -1 $4,777 74 69 71 73 287  
T45  
Ashleigh Simon
  ZAF -1 $4,777 73 69 72 73 287  
T55  
Chella Choi
  KOR E $3,887 70 74 74 70 288  
T55  
Cheyenne Woods
  USA E $3,887 70 75 72 71 288  
T57  
Beatriz Recari
  ESP 1 $3,558 71 71 74 73 289  
T57  
Alison Walshe
  USA 1 $3,558 74 71 70 74 289  
T57  
Karrie Webb
  AUS 1 $3,558 72 73 73 71 289  
T60  
Heather Bowie Young
  USA 2 $3,229 73 68 74 75 290  
T60  
Katie Burnett
  USA 2 $3,229 79 67 72 72 290  
T60  
Sakura Yokomine
  JPN 2 $3,229 73 73 70 74 290  
T63  
Moriya Jutanugarn
  THA 3 $2,998 72 74 70 75 291  
T63  
Joanna Klatten
  FRA 3 $2,998 71 73 73 74 291  
T63  
Jessica Korda
  USA 3 $2,998 73 71 74 73 291  
T63  
Jane Rah
  USA 3 $2,998 78 67 75 71 291  
67  
Cyna Marie Rodriguez
  PHL 4 $2,834 73 73 72 74 292  
68  
Asako Fujimoto
  JPN 5 $2,767 73 71 71 78 293  
T69  
Christel Boeljon
  NLD 6 $2,669 71 74 75 74 294  
T69  
Dewi Claire Schreefel
  NLD 6 $2,669 75 71 71 77 294  
71  
Christine Song
  USA 9 $2,603 71 72 75 79 297

 

Image Source: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images North America

 

From http://www.golfchannel.com/

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