The first ever Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) champion, Atthaya Thitikul, is set to make her debut at the ANA Inspiration as one of seven amateurs in the field.
The teenager booked her place at the first women’s major of the year after lifting the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific trophy at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore last month – four days after her 15th birthday.
Thitikul’s dramatic wire-to-wire victory after a four-way play-off also secured further exemptions into the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s in August and the 2018 HSBC Women’s World Championship held at Sentosa the following week.
Thitikul, known as Jeeno, laughed, joked and sang her way to a bogey-free six-under-par 66 final round to finish tied for eighth – just four shots behind the winner Michelle Wie. A glistening scorecard including four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 13th hole was a notable return for the sole amateur in the field.
The smiley teen is no stranger to taking on the professionals: she is the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour having won the Thailand Championship last year aged 14 – a feat previously achieved by Lydia Ko.
As a result of her February exploits, she jumped 19 places in the World Amateur Golf RankingTM to break into the top 20 in the same week she travelled to Qatar to represent the Asia-Pacific team in the Patsy Hankins Trophy match versus Europe.
The Thai prodigy continued her impressive form, teaming up with Filipino Yuka Saso – a runner-up at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific – to deliver four points over the opening two days before going on to win her singles match 4&3 over Italy’s Bianco Fabrizio – and going undefeated in the 231/2 - 81/2 victory over Europe at Doha Golf Club.
Thitikul now looks forward to once again competing against the best golfers in the world at Mission Hills this week. If recent history is anything to go by it will be another opportunity she will grab with both hands.