FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Chirapat Jao-Javanil could have been rattled after landing her tee shot in a lake alongside the right fairway on No. 18 in Friday's final round at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship, her ninth hole of the day.
But Jao-Javanil quickly recovered after taking a glimpse at a florescent green bracelet on her right wrist. The bracelet was worn all week by members of the Oklahoma women's golf team in support of Lorelei Decker, an Edmond teenager battling cancer.
The Sooners' sophomore responded with a birdie on No. 1 to regain sole possession of the lead, and added two more birdies over her final three holes to defeat Alabama golfer Brooke Pancake by four shots and win the NCAA individual title.
Jao-Javanil, who finished with a final-round 70 for a 6-under 282 over the four-day tournament, became the first golfer in the program's history to win an individual national championship. Two Sooner golfers on the men's side — Walter Emery (1933) and Jimmy Vickers (1952) — also won individual crowns.
The 19-year old from Hua-Hin, Thailand, was greeted with a hug by her mother, Chanasthorn, who made a 20-hour flight several weeks ago to watch her daughter in the postseason. Moments later, Jao-Javanil spoke with Decker by phone behind the No. 9 green at Vanderbilt's Legends Club.
“I told her I ran into some trouble on 18, but I shouldn't freak out over just hitting it in the water,” Jao-Javanil said. “She's the most alive person I've seen. That put into perspective what's important in life. It was cool to play for her.”
Pancake trailed by just a shot when Jao-Javanil had an approach from 237 yards on the par-5 No. 7. Jao-Javanil unleashed a 4-wood that bounced before the green and landed roughly 30 feet above the hole. The OU golfer nearly holed out an eagle putt, as the ball stopped roughly six inches in front of the cup.
Jao-Javanil again demonstrated touch around the green on the par-5, No. 9, her final hole of the tournament. After her approach landed in the right fringe just outside the green, Jao-Javanil placed a chip less than two feet from the hole.
“I always aim for the hole,” Jao-Javanil said. “I missed it, but it was close enough so it wasn't too far coming back.”
In the past few weeks, Oklahoma coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell has spent added time with Jao-Javanil to hone her short game. The two spent up to 45 minutes per session engaging in putting contests from 15 feet and in. Jao-Javanil defeated the former 2003 MAC Golfer of the Year from Kent State in about half of the competitions.
More importantly, it provided Jao-Javanil with the proper mental framework when encountering tough putts.
“She already has unbelievable mechanics and fundamentals, so we just worked on her believing that she could make the putts,” Drouin-Luttrell said.
During the tournament, Jao-Javanil placed the ball in the fairway about 90 percent of the time, according to Drouin-Luttrell. She was just as accurate in hitting greens in regulation, the coach said.
As a team Oklahoma finished tied for sixth, its best finish since 2002 when it finished in the same position. Sophomore Anne Tanguay and junior Taylor Schmidt (6-over) tied for 21st overall. Junior Jacki Marshall (23-over) and sophomore Emily Collins (26-over), finished 112th and tied for 117th respectively.
Oklahoma State's Kelsey Vines, competing as an individual, shot a 76 and finished with a 24-over total of 312. She tied for 113th.
Last week before leaving for Tennessee, the Sooners visited Decker as she underwent chemotherapy treatments at Integris Hospital in Oklahoma City. At the tournament, the OU golfers wore green nail polish that Decker calls “prayer polish.” Decker, who is fighting Stage 2 Hodgkins' Lymphoma, is also wearing the polish.
The NCAA champion has little time to rest. She is entered in the U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier next week in Frisco, Texas.
“With the momentum going, I'm really hopeful that I'll make it. Any major tournaments like that it could be a great experience, it could be life-changing. I would love to have a chance to play in it,” Jao-Javanil said.