Hokota, Japan: A judgement on the success of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) should be based on the depth of field five years from now, according to Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.
“We couldn’t have wished for a better winner last year for the inaugural event,” said Slumbers, referring to Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul, triumphant in Singapore in 2018 and the leading amateur at the Women’s British Open and the ANA Inspiration, the two Majors into which she gained an exemption by dint of her WAAP victory.
Addressing a press conference along with Kei Muratsu, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), on the opening day of the event’s second edition at The Royal Golf Club, Slumbers said: “We are delighted with the early success of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific. I think this week we will build on that and it is already becoming a fixture on the golfing schedule.
“Kei and I share enormous admiration and aspiration for this event. We want this to be viewed as one of the top amateur events for women in the world.
“That will take time to build. But with winners like Atthaya, it will happen very quickly. It was very much known around the golfing circuit that this young 15‑year‑old Thai girl could seriously play, and she represented her country fantastically at Royal Lytham last year.
“This is all about creating opportunities. I think five years from now, I will judge success, not just on the competence of the winners and how they perform, but what’s most important, the biggest measure, will be the depth of the field. How well does the depth improve with this opportunity?
“So, I look at the bottom half of the scoreboard as much as I look at the top-10, and five years from now, that’s where we’ll be judging it.”
The WAAP has been developed by The R&A and APGC with a view to unearthing emerging talent and providing a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs onto the international stage.
The champion in Japan this week will earn a place in two of the five women’s Majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific is in line with the goals of The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter, which was launched in May last year.
Slumbers said: “The Women in Golf Charter is something that’s very dear to The R&A. We believe that the future of our great game is to make sure more women are playing the game and more women are working in the game, and that will create a more diverse game and bigger game.
“Since last year, we have had over a hundred national federations signing up to committing to the Charter. We are now in the phase of working with individual golf clubs who will be signing up and committing to the Charter. The pace of change is growing and that is very, very important.
“I’ve always said that professional sport requires a pyramid, from grass-roots at the bottom to the elite professional game at the top. This Championship filled the vacuum as we saw it in Asia‑Pacific between the national federation events that are being run by our colleagues at the APGC and the LPGA. Most of the field here will be professionals at some point in the future, and that’s fantastic.
“We hope this Championship goes on to give them just that little bit more of a chance at being successful in their professional career.”