Thai Teenager Savours SICC Success

Eila Galitsky is all smiles after winning the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship at the Singapore Island Country Club. Picture by Yong Teck Lim/R&A via Getty Images.

Singapore: Eila Galitsky won the fifth Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) in commanding fashion, becoming the second player from Thailand to triumph in the region’s pre-eminent amateur championship.

Galitsky, who holds dual nationality of Thailand and Canada, shot a four-under-par 68 in the final round, giving her a four-day aggregate of 14-under 274 and a five-shot win from Korean Kim Min-sol (70) over the New Course at Singapore Island Country Club, a Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

The 16-year-old follows in the footsteps of Atthaya Thitikul, who won the inaugural championship in 2018 in Singapore and rose to number one in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings last year.

Galitsky, 193rd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) coming into the week, closed with three birdies in her last four holes. The result was never in doubt as she remained rock-solid throughout the day.

She made the turn at one-under with a birdie on the sixth hole. Her only dropped shot came when she missed a two-foot par putt on the 14th hole, but then bounced back with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes.

Kim, ranked number 14 in the world, was bidding to become the first player from Korea to win the WAAP title. However, despite giving herself several birdie opportunities, her putter remained stone cold.

As the 2023 WAAP champion, Galitsky earns starts in three Majors – the AIG Women’s Open, the Amundi Evian Championship and The Chevron Championship – as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship, ISPS Handa Australian Open, the 120th Women’s Amateur Championship and an invitation to play in this month’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Korean Park Ye-ji (70), Japan’s Yuna Araki (72), the second-highest ranked player in the championship at number five, New Zealand’s Fiona Xu (71) and Sophie Han (71) of Hong Kong, China, were tied for the third place at six-under 282.

Galitsky was imperious throughout the championship, but her crowning moment was truly the 18th hole, where she smashed a 375-yard drive down the fairway slope and needed only a seven-iron second shot into the par-five hole, which left her a comfortable two-putt for birdie.

The Thai was ahead by four going into the back nine of the championship on Sunday. And it would have taken some massive blunder to deny her the ultimate honour, considering that she was six-under par for the back nine in her previous three rounds.

“I never thought about winning until I made that first putt on the 18th hole. I was very nervous going into the final round. I did not sleep well and woke up at 4:30 am,” said Galitsky, who revealed a text message from compatriot Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, who finished runner-up the last two years and is now playing on the LPGA, helped her relax and be better prepared for the final round.

She said: “I did not expect this to happen at the beginning of the week. I played my first practice round here and lost five balls that day. At that point, I was thinking making the cut would be a good result.

“Honestly, I set a goal for myself today. I was going to play five-under par.  I was one short of it. The reason I was aiming for five-under-par was because my four-day record was 14-under-par. I was just trying to break that record today.”

Galitsky looks forward to enjoying the rewards of her win, especially a chance to play the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath (August 10-13).

She said: “Honestly, I am just trying to enjoy every single moment of it. What an opportunity I’ve got. I just need to try to savour every moment.

“I am looking forward to playing the AIG Women’s Open, as I feel like it is ‘the’ championship for women’s golf. Honestly, any Major would be great, but I just really like that one.”

Kim finally made a putt and a birdie on the 16th hole, and followed it up with another on the 17th. She was three ahead of the pack in third place at the stage and tried to set up an eagle on the 18th in the hope of putting some pressure on the leader. However, her second shot rolled through the green and into the water hazard.

After making a par, the Korean said: “I am happy finishing second, but I am slightly disappointed as well. I thought my long game was pretty good, but after the first two days, I just could not make any putts.

“This is just the beginning of the year, and my short-term goal is to be a winner of any international tournaments I will be participating in.”

Chinese Taipei’s Tiffany Huang Ting-hsuan (70), winner of the championship last year, finished in solo ninth place in her title defence, while Japan’s Rin Yoshida, the highest-ranked player in the field at number four, shot a three-over 75 to tie for 28th place at five-over 293.

Liu Yujie, the 12-year-old from China who was the youngest participant in the championship, closed with a 76 to finish in tied 32nd place at six-over.

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