ASIAN GOLF INDUSTRY FEDERATION

Major Rewards Await Triumphant Huang

Huang Ting-hsuan celebrates her victory at Siam Country Club. Picture by Graham Uden/R&A via Getty Images.

Pattaya, Thailand: Huang Ting-hsuan bounced back from a slow start to win the 2022 Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship and claim the first title for Chinese Taipei.
 
Facing up to the challenge of the home favourite Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, the 17-year-old Huang made six birdies over the last 11 holes to post a three-under-par 69 for a winning total of 11-under par 277.

That was two shots better than the Thai star, who closed with a one-under 71, which included bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes at Siam Country Club.
 
Korean Lee Hyo-song matched the best round of the day, a six-under 66, to climb up to tied third place at seven-under-par with Japan’s Yuna Araki (69) and Philippines’ Rianne Mikhaela Malixi (72).
 
Huang, who has notched up nine wins and 23 top-10 finishes in the last two years, is committed to UCLA next year and has secured places in two Major championships – the AIG Women’s Open and the Amundi Evian Championship – as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship and an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA).
 
“To be able to play in Majors is really a dream come true for me. I’d like to thank The R&A and the APGC for giving us this opportunity,” said Huang.
 
“I did not have any expectations coming into this week. I just wanted to play good golf and enjoy myself on the golf course. To be able to do this is amazing.”
 
Huang, who is 83rd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), started the day tied for the lead at eight-under but slipped way behind with bogeys on the first and fourth holes. Natthakritta, on the other hand, made a birdie on the second hole and then sensationally holed her second shot from 113 yards on the par-four third hole to open a four-shot lead at the top.
 
Despite birdies on the eighth and ninth holes, Huang still trailed her Thai playing partners (Suvichaya Vinijchaitham being the third player in the lead group) when the group reached the par-three 12th hole. On the toughest hole on the course, playing 0.34 shots above par, Huang played perhaps the critical shot of the championship when she birdied from the bunker. Natthakritta made a bogey and Suvichaya slipped up with a double-bogey.
 
Natthakritta’s biggest strength – her ability to hit the ball long – became the chink in her armour. She started the day playing conservatively on the par-five holes, and then when she tried to go for the green on the par-four 15th hole, where the tee was brought forward to 280 yards, she sprayed her tee shot right and could only manage par.

On the par-five 18th, trying to go for a big tee shot, she lost her balance slightly and ballooned the ball, leaving her to have to be content with a closing par.
 
The Thai WAGR number 38 had a chance to tie for the lead on 17, but she pushed her four-foot par putt. Huang could only make a bogey after her tee shot left her in an awkward position in the fairway bunker, from where she had to lay up.

Huang, who grew up idolising Chinese Taipei legend and five-time Major champion Tseng Ya-ni, then hit a brilliant third shot in pouring rain at 18 to set up a final birdie from six feet. Natthakritta once again missed a birdie putt from four feet and failed to put some pressure on the champion.

 “I felt very nervous because Sim put some pressure on me over the closing holes. I didn’t do very well on the front nine, but I was thinking very positively on the back nine,” said Huang.

“The shot on the 12th was a turning point, because I got very lucky there. My ball was in a footmark there. But on the 18th (third shot), I didn’t think too much. I just felt very confident on that shot.”

The 19-year-old Natthakritta, who was also second in last year’s championship in Abu Dhabi, was left disappointed with her finish. She said: “I did my best today and my game was good. I think I lost the tournament because of myself and did not do well under pressure. I could feel that my swing was becoming very fast and aggressive.

“Huang is a tough competitor, and she is very good and I think I am going to learn a lot from this tournament,” said Natthakritta, who will be playing the Stage 2 LPGA Qualifier in Florida.

The 2021 Abu Dhabi champion Mizuki Hashimoto made one birdie and 17 pars in her one-under final round that tied her for the ninth place at five-under par 283. Saki Baba, the highest-ranked player in the field at number three in the WAGR, who was struggling to make birdies, finally found her touch and made six in a bogey-free round that elevated her to tied sixth place at six-under 282.

The WAAP has been developed by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation to inspire future generations of women golfers and provides the champion with an unparalleled launchpad early in their career.  

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