April 16, 2004
Two years ago, Purdue's Onnarin Sattayabanphot ventured from her home in Bangkok, Thailand to the United States for an opportunity.
That opportunity was to play golf at a top university and get a quality education while doing so.
At the age of 12, Onnarin (pronounced o-NARE-n) first picked up a club when she went to the driving range with her father. She was so intrigued by how such an odd-shaped club could hit a ball so far off a tee, that she quickly became interested in taking the game up.
"I really didn't have anything (extracurricular) going on in my life," she says. "Golf just seemed really interesting to do."
While in high school at La Salle College in Thailand, Onnarin captured 11 tournaments in four years and was a member of the Thai national team from 1999-2001.
With determination and a good work ethic, Onnarin continue to improve her game enough to where she caught the attention of head coach Devon Brouse at Purdue.
Her freshman season actually began in January, playing in just nine events with a 78.7 average. She recorded three top-30 finishes, including a sixth-place tie at the Indiana Invitational.
During this year, Onnarin has recorded six top-20 finishes, including three top-10s and a fourth-place tie (77-73-150) at the Badger Invitational last fall.
But adjusting to golf in the United States was much easier than adapting to the culture and especially the language.
"It was difficult. It still is," she says. "There have been so many problems communicating. I had never spoken English before and it's taken me two years to learn it. It's tough."
Time away from family has also been tough for the sophomore. Onnarin, one of four daughters born to Ponphan and Nipon Sattayabanphot, says she misses being around her parents and sisters.
"I get to talk to my sisters about once every two weeks," she says of Onanong (age 16), Nutthachon (13) and Nutchanok (8). "I think I have been a role model to them. They don't play sports, but they are proud of me and it seems like they would like to come (to the United States) as well."
Onnarin is thankful to have her second family, consisting of her coaches and teammates in West Lafayette.
"It's been great to have them help me along."
This year, Onnarin is focused on lowering her stroke average and helping her team win Big Tens and advance to NCAA competition.
Like golf, Onnarin chose to study industrial design for a major because it was "interesting and something that was different and fun." Her plan though is to keep industrial design as a backup, and pursue a career in professional golf.
"I try to make goals for each day, and that's what I think younger kids should do," she says. "Make a goal everyday and practice hard. I just always want to go out there and do my best."
As for her dreams, Onnarin dreamed big when she was at home in Thailand and wanted to leave everything she had to come to the United States and play golf. Now that she is here, she knows that going to school and learning is the only way she'll be able to reach her biggest dream of playing golf professionally.
"Initially when I came here, I just want to play golf and prepare for the professional tour," she says. "But now I realize that I need to go to school and gain more experience. It really is a nice opportunity to be able to play golf and go to school at the same time."