As a former world No 1 and two-time major champion, Ariya Jutanugarn has experienced more than most in professional women’s golf.
Dubai, though, remains unchecked on the bucket-list box. Until now.
“I am really excited,” the Thai golfer tells The National ahead of her debut next week at the Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA, pro golf’s only night tournament, which plays out at Emirates Golf Club from October 27-29.
“This will be my first visit to Dubai and the first time I have played night golf. I have heard a lot of great things about Dubai, including its great golf courses, amazing food and shopping.
“I have seen the images of the Faldo Course under floodlights and it looks really cool, but clearly there is a lot to do in Dubai. I hope to have chance to visit the desert safari and Burj Khalifa. I know Dubai also has hosted many world-class golf tournaments.”
So, plenty planned in all, then. Fortunately for Jutanugarn, she will have a familiar travelling companion, not to mention a fellow Moonlight Classic competitor, along with her. Sister Moriya will contest also the 54-hole Ladies European Tour event, taking their place in a field that includes the likes of Dame Laura Davies and European Solheim Cup-winning captain Catriona Matthew.
Still, at world No 22 and 32, the Jutanugarn sisters will be among the favourites to come away with the trophy. In July this year, they combined to lift the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in their homeland. Clearly, the siblings can bring out the best in one another.
“We have played golf together since we were so young,” Ariya, the younger sister by two years, says. “I feel comfortable when I’m with her because I know that no matter what she will be supporting me.
“It is so much fun to play any tournament with Moriya and winning the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event together this year was a special moment for both of us.
“We are very close and it is just nice not travelling alone. We also got a new dog called Casper who we take out to the tournaments in the US, so he adds some fun and relaxation to life on tour.”
A regular on the LPGA Tour in the United States, Jutanugarn sits currently at No 6 on the Race to CME Globe, the circuit’s order of merit. The lofty position was aided considerably by victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand in Many, a first win in almost three years. Having attempted to win that event “for so long" in front of friends and family, Jutanugarn says to "finally do it was a really proud moment”.
It helped her climb back up the world standings, too. Jutanugarn first ascended top spot in 2017 and concluded 2018 as the world No 1. However, she fell 33 places before getting back into the winner’s circle in Thailand.
Jutanugarn, 25, describes the most difficult part of being No 1 as having “to fight with my own fears”, but the good undoubtedly outweighed the bad.
“I felt fortunate that I could prove that anything is possible if you work hard, and hopefully I helped inspire other people to follow your dreams,” she says. “I started our foundation around two years ago to help young children from poverty and I am proud my success has enabled me to give something back. I want to give others happiness, even if it is a little as not everyone has been as fortunate as we have.
“I had a tough time over the last two years, but despite the challenges I kept working hard with the belief that one day, another win would come along. A win always gives you confidence, but you need to keep working hard as there is so much talent in women’s golf.”
The reinforced belief was evident at the women’s US Open and British Open this summer, when Jutanugarn delivered tied-seventh and T10th finishes. She has already tasted success at both – the British Open in 2016 and the US Open two years later - but performing in the game's most high-profile tournaments could set her up well for the season's home straight.
“I am reasonably happy with my results but, like a lot of golfers, I still have good days and bad days so many things to work on,” Jutanugarn says. “It is always nice to play well in the majors.
“I am constantly trying to improve to be a better and more consistent player. I am just trying to focus on my game and each shot and not on the outcome or results.”
And, while she’s at it, take in a few fresh sights.
“I am excited to enjoy a new experience and Dubai is one of the countries I have wanted to visit for a while,” Jutanugarn says. “Hopefully I can play well to give me some more confidence for the rest of the year and also to be invited back next year!”