ATHLETICS News

UA Golf Coach Qualifies for U.S. Women's Open

Amy Ruengmateekhun's week was going well after the Ursuline golf team, a team she's been coaching for two years, won back-to-back TAPPS state golf championships.

It got better — once-in-a-lifetime better.

Two days after the Bears won their state title in Killeen, she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open after eight tries at the feat. She finished second with a one-day 141 (69, 72) at Canyon Creek Country Club in Richardson. Only the top two finishers in the more than 90-player field advanced to the Open.

"Honestly, I had no expectations at all," said 27-year-old Ruengmateekhun, who will make her LPGA Tour debut on May 30th at the Country Club of Charleston, S.C. "I took it one shot at a time. I had to make it as stress-free as possible."

Her strategy might surprise you. She hit the par-71 course with a 20-minute warmup and only played Canyon Creek two months before the qualifier. Her last professional tournament was in June. She played on the Symetra Tour for three seasons, which is one tier below the LPGA.

The familiar face on her bag turned into her biggest asset. Younger brother, Jamie, plays golf for Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.

"If I have any club selection problems, he can tell by the tone of my voice which one I want to use, Ruengmateekhun said with a smile. "I don't really like having a caddie who tells me what to do. I like to be in control of my own game. He knows when to back off and not talk to me and when to calm me down."

She made two birdies after 18 holes and got up and down despite some mistakes in the second round. She holed a 30-yard wedge shot for a birdie on her second to last hole.

"You have to be 'on' the whole day," said Ruengmateekhun, who played golf at Oklahoma State. "It's challenging, but I made a deal to myself. I wasn't going to put up the clubs until I played on the LPGA. I want to know if I can keep up with the best players in the world."

She nearly qualified for the Open when she was a junior at Bishop Lynch. In 2009, she tied for second but had to settle for first alternate after three-putting three of the five playoff holes.

Before coming to Ursuline, Ruengmateekhun was an assistant coach at Bishop Lynch for two years. She's also a LPGA Apprentice Golf Instructor at Brookhaven Country Club.

"It's a Cinderella story," Ursuline Director of Athletics Susan Noonan said. "She's a great coach, and this is an amazing accomplishment."

She wanted to attend Ursuline's graduation on Sunday, but she leaves for South Carolina with family and her fiancé, David, on Saturday. Teachers, players, and coaches from Bishop Lynch and Ursuline will also host a send-off for her at her parents' restaurant, Tukta Thai, in Dallas.

"I am sad she is missing graduation, but the team could not be prouder of her," said senior Elena Song, who has played golf at Ursuline for four years. "She has been an amazing influence in my high school golfing career, and she continues to be an important mentor to me. The team and I are cheering her on."

Said Ruengmateekhun: "It really was the best week of my life. I've always dreamed of this. There's still some good golf left in me."