Amateur youngest Female to win a Pro tournament
Chon Buri - Amateur Atthaya Thitikul wrote a new chapter in the history books by becoming the youngest winner of a ladies professional golf tournament, beating Ana Menendez of Mexico by two strokes in the 300,000-euro Thailand Championship at the Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club yesterday.
At 14 years, four months and 19 days, Atthaya beat the previous record of former world No 1 Lydia Ko, who at 14 years and eight months, won her first professional event – the New South Wales Open, which is part of the Australian Tour, in 2012.
Atthaya, who shot a 72 in the final round for five-under-par 283, trailed Menendez by one stroke at the start of the day. The Mexican, who lead a LET tournament for the first time, was a bundle of nerves, making four bogeys on the front nine before sinking her only birdie on the 11th. The Thai teenager, who hails from Ratchaburi, meanwhile took the outright lead on the fourth hole and finished with panache as her professional opponents failed to threaten her.
“I didn’t expect to win the tournament. I came here to learn from the pro players. I’m so proud to have won this title and I would like to dedicate this to my compatriots,” said Atthaya, who also become the youngest winner on the LET, breaking the old mark of 15 years, 9 months and 17 days by Ko in the 2013 ISPS Handa New Zealand’s Women Open.
Thailand’s Phachara Kongwatmai holds the record of being the youngest to win a professional golf tournament when he claimed the Hua Hin Open in 2013 at 14 years, three months.
“I was nervous only on the first tee. To be honest I didn’t think about the score or checked her [Menendez] score at all. I was very focused on every shot and tried to relax with my caddy,” said the teenager, who was not healthy as a child and picked up the game to become stronger.
Atthaya hopes to follow in the footsteps of her golf idol Thai No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn. However, she insisted that she would be in no rush to turn pro, which means she would lose the right to take a two-year membership on the LET for winning the event.
“This victory doesn’t guarantee anything. I still need more time to gain experience and be ready, which may take three or four years,” said Atthaya, whose next goal is to win a gold medal for Thailand in the SEA Games next month.
Menendez, who lead for three days, had her best finish on the LET. “I am disappointed as I could have done better. I started poorly. But I will go home taking the positives from this week. It’s a good turnaround for me from over the past 14 months and I hope to do well for the rest of the year,” said the 25-year-old, who had the consolation of bagging the winner’s prize money of 45,000 euros, which Atthaya is not eligible since she is an amateur.
Australian-Thai Whitney Hillier carded a 71 for 2-under-par 286 to take the lone third spot, which is her best performance on the LET so far.
“It’s amazing to have so much support this week. To play well in my mother’s country was a big bonus,” said the 26-year-old, who will return to her base in the United Kingdom with 27,000 euros.
Meanwhile, General Chatri Changrean, the chairman of the Khon Rak Golf Co Ltd, which organised the event, said the tournament will increase the prize money to 600,000 euros next year.