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Emerg­ing Thai star At­thaya Thi­tikul, 15, se­cured a dra­matic wire-to-wire vic­tory at the Women’s Am­a­teur Asia-Pa­cific Cham­pi­onship by win­ning a four-way play-off at Sen­tosa Golf Club and se­cur­ing places in two of this year’s ma­jor cham­pi­onships, writes Lo

HK Golfer - - Contents - Photo by Daniel Wong

Jonathan Lai closed with a bril­liant fi­nal round 67 to win the HK Close Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at Fan­ling over the Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day.

Thi­tikul carded a clos­ing 71 to join Ja­pan’s Yuna Nishimura (69), the Philip­pines’ Yuka Saso (68) and New Zealand’s Wenyung Keh (67) with an eight-un­der to­tal of 276 over the 6,456-yard New Tan­jong course. Af­ter nar­rowly miss­ing birdie-putt chances to win on the first two ex­tra holes on 18, Thi­tikul tapped in for par on the long par-four 12th be­fore 17-year-old Nishimura missed a long par putt to con­cede vic­tory. Keh, 20, and Saso, 16, ex­ited af­ter the first and se­cond ex­tra holes re­spec­tively.

Thi­tikul, who only turned 15 on Tues­day, started the event at 53rd in the World Am­a­teur Golf Rank­ing, with re­cent high­lights in­clud­ing be­com­ing the Ladies Euro­pean Tour’s youngest-ever win­ner last July and gold medals in the SEA Games in­di­vid­ual and team events in Malaysia a month later.

Now, she has earned in­vi­ta­tions to the ANA In­spi­ra­tion (29 March-1 April) at Mis­sion Hills Coun­try Club in Cal­i­for­nia, USA, and the Ri­coh Women’s Bri­tish Open (2-5 Au­gust) at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lan­cashire, Eng­land, as well as next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Cham­pi­onship, also at Sen­tosa Golf Club.

Born in Ratch­aburi prov­ince west of Bangkok, Thi­tikul made her ma­jor cham­pi­onship de­but at the Ri­coh Women’s Bri­tish Open last Au­gust and the fol­low­ing month played in her se­cond at The Evian Cham­pi­onship in France, where she made the cut.

Now, the Thai teen has earned a re­turn to the Women’s Bri­tish Open af­ter an event­ful week in which she led af­ter an open­ing 65, co-led af­ter a se­cond-round 71 and re­gained the out­right lead af­ter a third-round 69 that she com­pleted on Satur­day morn­ing when she birdied two of her last four holes.

“I’m so ex­cited be­cause this is the first year of this cham­pi­onship. It’s so great that my name is the first one on the tro­phy,” said Thi­tikul, who played in her first LPGA event at the Honda LPGA Thai­land last Fe­bru­ary, when she just turned 14.

Six Ja­panese and five Kore­ans fin­ished in the top 20, while five Filip­inas fin­ished in the top 30. Hong Kong’s Is­abella Le­ung and Chloe Chan had made the half­way cut. Le­ung fin­ished at a re­spect­ful tied 22nd on six over, while Chan fin­ished tied 47th.

The in­au­gu­ral cham­pi­onship has been de­vel­oped by the Asia Pa­cific Golf Con­fed­er­a­tion (APGC) and The R&A to nur­ture tal­ent and pro­vide a path­way for the re­gion’s elite fe­male am­a­teurs to the in­ter­na­tional stage.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Women’s Am­a­teur Asia-Pa­cific, please visit randa.org/

WAAP.

15-year-old At­thaya Thi­tikul won the in­au­gu­ral Women’s Am­a­teur Asi­aPa­cific and se­cured places in two of this year’s ma­jor cham­pi­onships

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