Patty Primed for Tanah Merah Test

Patty Tavatanakit is setting her sights on a maiden Korean LPGA victory at Tanah Merah next week. Picture by Hana Financial Group Championship.

Singapore: In-form Patty Tavatanakit will headline the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open (HFGSWO) alongside defending champion Park Ji-young and 2023 Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) money list topper Lee Ye-won.

Many of Korea’s top female golfers are also set to feature at Tanah Merah Country Club’s Tampines Course from March 7-10 along with a slew of players from Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan.

Malaysian Ashley Lau, who recently stunned former world number one Shin Ji-yai to win her first pro title at the 2024 Vic Open, will also compete in Singapore alongside rising Thai stars Jaravee Boonchant and Natthakritta Vongtaveelap.

Top Singapore professionals Amanda Tan and Koh Sock Hwee had earlier confirmed their attendance at the national Open, alongside elite national amateur players Aloysa Atienza, Jaymie Ng, Chen Xingtong and Jillian Kuk.

Tavatanakit, the 2021 LPGA Rookie of the Year, will be looking to build on her momentum after victories on the Ladies European Tour (Aramco Saudi Ladies International) and LPGA (Honda LPGA Thailand) in the past fortnight and clinch her first KLPGA Tour title.

Her victory at the Riyadh Golf Club was her maiden title on the Ladies European Tour and her first success since winning the 2021 ANA Inspiration in her breakout rookie year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association.  

She said: “I am very excited to be competing in my first Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open. I have good memories from competing in Singapore and I hope I can create more good memories by winning for the first time there.

“It is thanks to sponsors like the Hana Financial Group that I’m able to pursue my passion and play golf professionally. I’m very grateful for the support they have given me.

“It was an emotional moment when I won the Aramco Saudi Ladies International – it’s been a long time since I’ve played this well and I’ve worked really hard to get here and overcome that.

“I’ve grown and learnt so much over the past couple of years and I’m looking forward to carrying that energy and mindset with me to Singapore. It will be a tough three weeks of competition, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m just going to go out there and have fun playing while making sure I recover well so that I can carry on this momentum for the rest of the season.”

Meanwhile, world number 56 Park will be looking to start the year in style by winning her eighth KLPGA title. In the inaugural HFGSWO in December 2022 – which also served as the Tour’s season-opener – she clinched her fifth win on the KLPGA Tour as heavy rain forced the cancellation of the third and final round.

Her stellar performance in the opening 36 holes, shooting rounds of 66 and 67 to reach 11-under 133, sealed her victory by a narrow margin, edging out the trio of Hong Jung-min, Lee So-young, and Park Hyun-kyung by one shot.

This triumph set the stage for Park’s impressive run later in the season, as she added two more victories at the EVERCOLLAGEN The Sienna Queens Crown and KB Financial Group STAR Championship.

She said: “I feel a little nervous and excited for HFGSWO because it’s my first title defence in 2024, but I’ll do my best and prepare diligently. Frankly, I don’t feel much pressure, I just want to show my best performance again like last time. Winning the tournament in 2022 was a special moment for me and it gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season. I hope I will be able to repeat that success this time.”

Park is aware of the formidable challenge posed by her competitors as she prepares to defend her title, with 16 of the top 20 finishers from last season’s points standings poised to bring their A-game to the new season’s battleground away from home.

Besides Tavatanakit and reigning KLPGA Player of the Year Lee, Park will also have to contend with heavyweights including 2023 KLPGA Rookie of the Year Kim Min-byeol and 2022 KLPGA Player of the Year Park Min-ji.

World number 32 Lee is determined to continue her stellar performance from the exceptional 2023 season, in which she clinched three victories and secured four runner-up finishes. Additionally, she had 14 other top-10 finishes from the 29 tournaments in which she participated.

After proving herself on home turf, Lee is eager to make her mark with her first victory abroad. She said: “When I participated in the HFGSWO in 2022, I felt like the course suits me well so I’m excited to compete in the tournament again. It was difficult for me to read the greens, because I was not familiar with the slopes and undulations.

“But I think I’ll be able to play aggressively this year due to the experience of 2022. Last season was exceptional – I’m still proud of it and I’m also happy that I’ve been continuing to grow. I hope I can have another great year.”

The one billion Won (about S$1.1 million) HFGSWO is jointly sanctioned by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) and Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) and forms part of the Ladies Asian Tour Series.

*The Singapore Golf Association (Associate Business) and Tanah Merah Country Club (Facility) are both members of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

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