Teen sensation Atthaya Thitikul and Tour rookie Pajaree Anannarukarn hope to make an impact in the US$1.6 million Honda LPGA Thailand, which starts on Thursday at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course, Chon Buri.
The 15-year-old Atthaya, the youngest Ladies European Tour winner at 14 in May 2017, when she was 14, and Pajaree are among four young Thais lining up in the country’s richest golf event.
They, along with Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras and Benyapa Niphatsophon, the winner of the national qualifying tournament, will join seasoned pros Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Pornanong Phatlum and Thidapa Suwannapura in the hunt to become the first Thai to triumph in their home LPGA event.
“I’m 100 per cent ready as I just finished training with the national team at the Phoenix Gold (Golf and Country Club, also in Chon Buri) ,” said Atthaya, winner of the 2018 Youth Olympic mixed doubles gold medal with Vanchai Luangnithikul.
“This is a big event in Thailand, so I’m ready to perform my duty as best as I can.”
Sloping, fast greens at the par-72 course still remain pebbles in the shoes of local contenders, however. The best result achieved to date by a Thai remains the second-placed finish by Ariya in 2013 and Moriya last year.
“The course is in perfect condition. The greens are firm and fast. So approach shots will be tough this year,” added Atthaya, who finished in a tie for 37th two years ago.
Pajaree, 19, is also determined to shine this week after playing her first LPGA event at the same venue in 2017, when she ended back in joint 64th.
“The green speeds is quite fast. I need to focus on my putts this week and try to get used to the green speeds in order to achieve a good result,” said Pajaree, who last year recorded four top-10 finishes in 20 starts on the Symetra Tour, the official developmental tour in women’s golf.
Pannarat will be making her third appearance in the 70-field tournament after finishing 65th in 2016 and in a tie for 64th in 2017.
“I feel more confident this year and hope to finish in a higher position. The greens are tricky as usual,” said the 21-year-old Pannarat, who is in her fourth year on the LPGA Tour.
Six featuire stars – In Gee Chun of South Korea, Pannarat, Suzuka Yamaguchi of Japan, Georgia Hall of England, pin-up girl Munie He of China and Paula Creamer of the US – dressed in Thai traditional silk costumes for a photocall yesterday. They also learned embroidery handwork, which was part of the promotional activities in the build-up to the tournament.
Earlier in the day, world No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, former world No 1 Shan Shan Feng of China, Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Benyapa and amateurs Atthaya and Ribka Vania of Indonesia an took part in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities at Kledkaew School in Sattahip, Chonburi. The golfers helped renovating school playground and gardens and provided books and stationary to students.