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