Teen Twins in LPGA Major
This is an article from the Jan. 31, 2000 issue
Identical twins in sports are more likely to be a source of
diversion than domination, but the sister act of Aree and Naree
Wongluekiet, the 13-year-old look-alikes from Thailand, could
change that, and soon. Last week the twins accepted invitations
to play in the LPGA's first major of the season, the March 23-26
Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho
Mirage, Calif. That will make them, after Beverly Klass (MY
SHOT, page G12), the youngest girls ever to play in an LPGA event.
Aree already is the youngest person to hold a USGA title--she won
the U.S. Junior in August--while Naree, who reached the semifinals
in the Junior before withdrawing because of a foot injury,
recently won the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in Miami.
(Aree tied for second.) Between them they won 10 top junior
titles last year and had four second-place finishes. They also
narrowly missed qualifying for last week's LPGA Subaru Memorial
in Naples, Fla. With only two spots available, Naree shot a 70
and Aree a 69, which got her into a playoff that she lost to
Heather Bowie. "They're good enough to keep their tour cards
right now," says Andrew Rice, who teaches Aree at the David
Leadbetter Junior Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where the
twins live with their parents and 17-year-old brother, Chan, the
second-ranked junior boy in the U.S.
The twins intend to join the LPGA someday, and though their plan
is to attend college for two years before turning pro, many
believe they will be on the tour long before that. "They will
probably run out of competition on the amateur level," says
Leadbetter. "I can see them making the move in two or three
If so, commissioner Ty Votaw will have to exempt the twins from
the rule that sets the minimum age for LPGA membership at 18.
Last week Votaw did not rule out that possibility. "I would have
to decide if they are ready both physically and emotionally," he
said. "If they play some LPGA events on sponsor exemptions, that
would be a way to demonstrate if they're ready."
Nabisco tournament director Terry Wilcox, who received a letter
from the girls' father, In Jong Song, seeking invitations, as
well as letters from Gary Gilchrist, director of the Leadbetter
Academy, and from an International Management Group agent
vouching for their ability, says he couldn't think of a good
reason to exclude the Wongluekiets. "They are obviously very
young, but they're also obviously good enough to play, and that
was good enough for me," Wilcox says. Normally the tournament
invites about five amateurs, including the reigning U.S. Amateur
champ, and last year it extended an invitation to the winner of
the 1998 U.S. Junior, 17-year-old Leigh Anne Hardin.
To date, the most accomplished twins in golf have been Alan and
Curtis Strange, although Alan never finished better than 28th in
16 Tour starts. While the Wongluekiets are more equal in ability
than the Stranges, they are as indistinguishable as the brothers.
The Wongluekiets's own brother can't tell them apart on the
phone. "They get real mad when that happens," says Chan. Both
girls are 5'4" and weigh 120 pounds. The twins still sleep in the
same bed and share the same wardrobe, and have been apart for
more than a day just once in their lives. They also use identical
clubs--only their drivers are different. To tell them apart, the
Leadbetter pros check the girls' necklaces (Aree wears a Winnie
the Pooh pendant and Naree a gold N) and request that they wear
different shoes (men's size 9 1/2).
The girls' games have progressed at the same pace since they were
five. Any surge of improvement by one has spurred the other to
catch up. Tiger Woods first saw them play, in November 1997, at a
clinic in Thailand. His reaction to a pair of 11-year-olds
simultaneously rifling 210-yard drives? "First, absolutely
awesome talent," he says. "Second, I thought I had double
Those who deal with the Wongluekiets on a daily basis say they
aren't entirely alike. Naree, who was born nine minutes ahead of
her sister, is more extroverted and congenial, while Aree is a
more intense competitor. Although both now average more than 240
yards off the tee, Naree, who is taught by Jonathon Yarwood, has
a more methodical, textbook swing and is a conservative course
manager. Aree goes after the ball harder, plays more by feel and
likes to cut doglegs and go for the pin. "Aree is slightly more
athletic," says Rice, "but when Naree's swing is on, she's
No one expects one of the twins to win the Nabisco, but that
doesn't mean expectations won't be high. "I wouldn't be surprised
to see them make the cut, maybe even get on the leader board,"
says Leadbetter. "Bottom line: They will shock people with how
well they can play."
DALY'S FIRST LION
As an endorser, John Daly hasn't run with the big dogs since he
walked away from an $8 million deal with Callaway in September.
Now, though, he's hoping that a new venture, John Daly
Enterprises, gets him back in the hunt. The new company, for
which Daly has chosen a lion's head--Lion was his high school
nickname--as a logo is one of several small steps in the business
world made by the two-time major championship winner since he
resumed drinking and thereby voided his Callaway contract.
According to his agent, John Mascatello, Daly recently signed a
one-year deal with Sobe, which makes nonalcoholic fruit and sport
drinks and teas. "It's a solid company with clever marketing
people," says Mascatello, "and hopefully it gets John drinking
Daly is also in the process of launching a line of clothing that
would carry the new logo. "The apparel would have a medium price
point," says Mascatello, "which is appropriate for John's fan
base." Mascatello claims that while Daly continues to imbibe, his
life has been relatively calm over the last few months. "In
John's mind he is doing very well," Mascatello says. On the golf
course, however, Daly is not off to a roaring start this season.
In his first appearance of the year, at the Bob Hope Chrysler
Classic, he missed the cut by nine strokes.
Notah Begay has every reason to be ashamed. His second DUI
arrest in five years is a huge blow to Native Americans. Begay
says he wants to be a role model, but his behavior has
reinforced a pernicious stereotype. He has been contrite since
his arrest, but taking steps to solve his problem will speak
louder than words.
Will Tiger Woods break Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight
--Based on 1,668 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who is your favorite golf analyst on TV? Johnny
Miller, Andy North, Curtis Strange or Ken Venturi? Vote at
What do these players have in common?
They are the last players to win their first start on the PGA,
LPGA and Senior tours, respectively.
SYNONYMS for a TOUR TERM
A long drive: big 'un, corker, Howard Huge, Kmarted, let the big
dog eat, Linda Ronstadt, mondo, neutered, nuked, nutted,
postage, scalded, see ya, sugoi, Tiger tagged, that dog will hunt.
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson met in
the inaugural Skins Game, in 1983, and they'll meet again this
weekend at the Senior Skins. Listed are the skins and money they
have won in regular Tour and Senior skins games, with number of
appearances in parentheses.
Nicklaus 27 (9) 37 (8)
Palmer 13 (6) 34 (10)
Watson 27 (6) 0 (0)
Player 7 (2) 9 (4)
Jeff Klauk, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Klauk, 22, won the 74th Lakewood Invitational with a
tournament-record 21-under 267. Klauk's score was four shots
better than the previous best, set last year by 1996 U.S. Amateur
runner-up Steve Scott. A senior at Florida Southern, Klauk helped
the Moccasins win the last two NCAA Division II titles.
Jessica Castle, Plantation, Fla.
Jessica, 14, won the Mission Inn Classic, with a 10-over-par 154
for her third consecutive victory in the 11-to-14 age division on
the International Junior tour. Last year Jessica was the tour's
player of the year in her age group and also won the 12-13
division of the Pepsi Little People's Championship, in Quincy,
Jay Horton, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Horton, 51, won the PGA Senior-Junior Championship with John
Reeves, 38, an assistant at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich,
Conn. In December, after winning the European Senior tour Q
school, Horton retired as the head pro at the Country Club of
Detroit, a position he had held for 16 years.
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