Date: February 21, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Thai prodigy leaves Aussies in wake

If your golfing black book isn’t full of future Asian champions, get out your pen one more time.

Having turned 15 yesterday, Atthaya Thitikul showed her remarkable poise with a stunning performance at the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific Championship in Singapore today with huge rewards on the line.

The six-strong Australian contingent was, along with the rest of the 83-strong field, left in the wake of the Thai prodigy who torched the New Tanjong course at Sentosa with a stunning round of six-under-par 65.

While a host of Japanese and Korean players are within shouting distance, the news wasn’t great for the six Aussie women, headed by Kirsty Hodgkins, Australia’s highest-ranked amateur, who signed for a 71 with three birdies offset by three bogeys.

Her University of Colorado and Queensland teammate Robyn Choi was next best with a 72, while Sydney’s Grace Kim and Melbourne’s Alizza Hetherington signed for 74s.

Sadly, Melbourne’s Julienne Soo and Gold Coaster Becky Kay might already find themselves too far back after carding opening 78s in the four-round event.

But the day belonged to Thitikul, who allowed the field some respite with a closing bogey on the par-four ninth, but still was destructive to so many of her peers’ dreams.

With the key prizes this week starts in two major championships – the ANA Inspiration and Women’s British Open – and also next week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship at the same course, Thitikul was brilliant in peeling off eight birdies, including four in her first five holes after starting on the 10th to string out the field early.

If her name sounds vaguely familiar, Thitikul last year wiped out a record held by no less a legend than Lydia Ko as the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour when she saluted at the Ladies European Thailand Championship at 14 years, four months and 19 days in July.

The only player to keep pace was rising Japanese star Yuka Yasuda, a prominent qualifier at the recent Australian Amateur Championship, who carded a fine 67, closing with a birdie on the ninth to keep the race on at the pointy end of the leaderboard with no other player better than three under.

But not surprisingly, of the 12 players at two under or better, there are three from each of Japan, Korea and Thailand as the regional female powers flex their collective muscle.