124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

OU's Jao-Javanil playing like a contender

__FRANKLIN, TENN.--Oklahoma sophomore__Chirapat Jao-Javanil is pretty honest about what first got her interested in the game of golf, and it has nothing to do with hitting a little white ball.

"I think the golf cart attracted me," said the 19-year-old from Thailand, who thought cruising around with her father was a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon.

Ten years later, it's the competition that inspires the woman nicknamed Ja. A two-time individual winner this season, she helped her Sooner squad claim the Big 12 conference title last month and finds herself in the thick of the individual race at the NCAA Women's Championship.

A third-round 70 while competing in the morning wave Thursday at Vanderbilt Legends Club left Jao-Javanil (pronounced Jow Jav A Nell) at four-under 212 through 54 holes, in third place as the afternoon wave with individual leader Brooke Pancake (-6 through 36 holes) began play.

Her round included four birdies, three in a five-hole stretch as she made the turn, a solid effort given how the day's warmer conditions were baking out the already firm-and-fast greens on the North course.

Sooner coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell says that the biggest thing working in Jao-Javanil's favor this week is her calm and collected approach to the game.

"She's always pretty confident," Drouin-Luttrell said. "Her mental game is honestly one of the best out there, on the team for sure. She just knows how to play. She'll be aggressive on some holes and others she'll be [cautious]. She's very smart."

A former OU men's golfer gave Drouin-Luttrell a heads up about the Thai native when she was a junior golfer. Trusting the recommendation, the coach invited Jao-Javanil to visit Norman and offer her a place on the squad despite never having seen her play in a tournament. "I took a chance and it turned out pretty good," she said with a wry smile.

Ja, meanwhile, admits she didn't even know Oklahoma was one of the 50 states when she was contacted by Drouin-Luttrell, but liked Norman and the atmosphere and decided to give it a try.

With the potential to inch up the leader board as the afternoon conditions make scoring that much more challenging, Jao-Javanil says she's won't be watching the scores too intently. "I can't control how everyone else plays," she said. "Hopefully I'll just be close to the lead."