Singapore: Atthaya Thitikul secured a dramatic wire-to-wire victory at the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific by winning a four-way play-off and securing places in two of this year’s Major championships.
Continuing to sing, laugh and joke with experienced caddie Roongroj ‘Yod’ Boonsri, the 15-year-old Thai carded a closing 71 at Sentosa Golf Club, a Golf Course Facility member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
That enabled her to join Japan’s Yuna Nishimura (69), the Philippines’ Yuka Saso (68) and New Zealand’s Keh Wen-yung (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, Atthaya 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.
Atthaya, who 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 (March 29-April 1) at Mission Hills Country Club in California and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (August 2-5) 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, Atthaya 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.
The Thai teen has now 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 Atthaya, who played in her first LPGA event at the Honda LPGA Thailand last February, when she just turned 14. “My golf today wasn’t so good, even though I started so good and played well in the play-off. But I didn’t ever really get nervous because I came here to learn and get experience.
“I’m so excited to play in two more Majors. I’m really looking forward to returning to the Women’s British Open and I would like to make the cut this time, but my main objective is always to play happy and gain more experience.”
Atthaya was awarded the winner’s plate by Kei Muratsu, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, and received the Champion’s Medal from Thailand’s Rae-Vadee T. Suwan, whom it was named after.
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