Date: February 21, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussie six eye major berths in Asia

Six young Australian women are chasing their major championship dream in Singapore from today.

The inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) golf championship started in Singapore this morning with Kirsty Hodgkins (40th) and Sydney’s Grace Kim (66th) Australia’s highest-ranked players.

Hodgkins has played at the University of Colorado since August 2016 and is one of three Australians playing college golf in the US along with Colorado and Queensland teammate Robyn Choi and Melbourne’s Julienne Soo, who’s in her third year at the University of Oklahoma.

Joining those four are Queenslander Becky Kay and Victorian Alizza Hetherington as the women set out to win an incredible prize – berths in two major championships, the ANA Inspiration and Women’s British Open and also next week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship, also at Sentosa Golf Club.

“The course is amazing,” said Hodgkins of the New Tanjong course at Sentosa.

“The challenging holes are the long par-fours including eight and 12, which also has water so that’s going to be a little interesting.”

Choi agreed that the 5904m layout would prove a big test. “The par-fours are long and it’s challenging, but I love the course.”

Thailand’s Paphangkorn ‘Patty’ Tavatanakit and Wenbo ‘Maggie’ Liu of China are the top-ranked players this week in the inaugural women’s event to match the rousing success of the men’s version that has become a staple in the region.

 The 72-hole stroke play event features 83 players representing 18 nations, with more than half of the field 18 years old or under, and ages ranging from 13 to 25.

The field features 15 players from the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, comprising four from Korea, three from Japan, two each from Australia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, and one each from China and the Philippines.

At 13th in the WAGR, Tavatanakit is the field’s highest-ranked player and last year competed at three major championships – ANA Inspiration, US Women's Open and Evian Championship.

Tavatanakit, who went to school in Bangkok, also started playing college golf at the University of California Los Angeles last year.

Fellow Thai Atthaya Thitikul, 53rd on the WAGR, won the SEA Games individual gold in Malaysia last August and is one of two players in this week’s field who have won professional events.

Last July, Atthaya succeeded Lydia Ko as the youngest-ever winner on the Ladies European Tour when she won the Ladies European Thailand Championship at 14 years, four months and 19 days.

“It was a really big surprise. It made me feel more confident about my game,” said Atthaya, who turned 15 yesterday. “I’m excited about this week because all the top players from the Asia-Pacific countries are here. I’m not thinking about winning, just doing my best.”

Korean Yujeong Son (35th) and compatriot and Australian Amateur Championship runner-up Ayean Cho (36th) are the field’s third and fourth highest-ranked players, followed by Yuka Saso (38th) of the Philippines.

The WAAP championship has been developed by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation and The R&A to nurture talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite female amateurs to the international stage. The championship will be contested over four rounds of stroke play from 21-24 February.