FRANKLIN, Tenn. — What’s in a name? If you’re from Thailand, quite a bit.
There are two things to know about people’s names in Thailand:
One, almost everyone has a nickname because their names are so long. Two, their names are so long because they are packed with meaning.
Oklahoma sophomore Chirapat Jao-Javanil has been “Ja” since she was a child, a nickname given by her mother, Chanasthorn.
|DI WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP|
|More: Leadbetter learns from dad|
|More: Pancake finishing where she started|
What does Chirapat mean?
“Mine actually means ‘a heart as strong and as pure as a diamond,’ ” Jao-Javanil said.
It’s a name that makes quite an impression.
“It’s a good meaning,” she said. “I’ll take it.”
On sun-baked greens that were gradually taking on consistency of diamonds, Jao-Javanil navigated her way around the Vanderbilt Legends Club on Thursday with efficient precision, carding a 2-under par 70 that put her at 4 under 212 for the tournament.
At the time, Jao-Javanil was chasing Alabama’s Brooke Pancake. But as the afternoon wore on and the scores climbed higher, Jao-Javanil found herself tied for first place with Arizona State’s Giulia Molinaro, with Pancake and LSU’s Tessa Teachman a stroke behind
“I hit it pretty close today,” Jao-Javanil said. “I made a few putts and a lot of pars.”
It was a good recipe for success in a difficult third round in which red numbers were as rare as diamonds.
Oklahoma found a diamond in the golf rough with Jao-Javanil, whose recruitment was a long-distance, friend-of-a-friend affair so common in college sports like tennis and golf.
A family friend of Jao-Javanil, former Oklahoma men’s golfer Bill Hildenbrand, put Oklahoman women’s coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell on to Ja when she was still playing junior golf in Thailand and neighboring southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, China and The Philippines. She lives and plays at a club called Palm Hills, an American-sounding development near the very Thai-sounding town of Hua-Hin, about 60 miles south of Bangkok.
“We decided to bring her on campus,” Drouin-Luttrell said. “We took a chance, and it turned out to be pretty good.”
Jao-Javanil took a chance too, considering she was going to visit a place she previously didn’t know existed.
“Before I went to Oklahoma I really didn’t know Oklahoma was a state in the U.S.,” she admitted. “But once I went there I loved the university, the people. It was just a good fit. I visited and I decided it was the place.”
The transition was tough coming from half a world away – Jao-Javanil typically goes home only once a year – but having her mother here with her the last month or so has perhaps helped Ja’s golf game.
A two-time All-Big 12 selection who won the Golfweek Conference Challenge and the Central District Invitational during the season, Jao-Javanil tied for second in the Big 12 Championships and finished a solo fifth in the NCAA West Regional.
“Ja has been consistent all year,” Drouin-Luttrell said. “Since the Big 12 she played solid there and in regionals. I figured she’d have a shot at being in the top 10 for sure.”
Most golfers when asked what is the strength of their game will mention their driving or chipping or putting. Not Ja.
“I might say mentally,” she said. “I try to relax myself throughout the course and pace myself. Out here, everyone can strike the ball the same. It’s the best of the best out here, every team. It’s kind of in your head.”
A course as tough as the Legends Club can definitely get in your head, so Drouin-Luttrell does expect Ja to feel some pressure pursuing an NCAA individual championship in Friday’s final round.
“Maybe a little bit,” she said. “She does have expectations, but at the end of the day she’s just coming out here to play her round.”
For someone whose name means heart of a diamond, one would expect nothing less.