Thailand's Natthakritta Vongtaveelap remains on course for the biggest win of her young career after a brilliant eagle finish on her way to a third round five-under-par 67 at the Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific in Abu Dhabi.
At Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National course, the 19-year-old Bangkok-based player was caught by Mizuki Hashimoto (68) at one stage when the Japanese player holed a 30-feet birdie putt on the 16th hole.
Unphased, Vongtaveelap hit the accelerator with a dramatic finish. Known for her long drives, she hit a perfect tee shot at the 17th and then snuggled a shot iron to two feet for birdie. On the par-5 18th, another excellent tee shot put her in perfect position and she stroked a perfect 18-degree hybrid to four feet and rolled in the eagle putt.
The five-under-par 67 took Vongtaveelap to 15-under-par, with Hashimoto in second place at 12-under. Australia’s Kelsey Bennett (69) looked to be making her move with three consecutive birdies from the 6th but she frustratingly finished with ten straight pars to sit at 11-under in third place.
Malaysia’s Ashley Lau and Australia’s Cassie Porter both fired four-under-par 68s to be tied fourth at 10-under-par. Japan’s Nanako Inagaki (67), India’s Anika Varma (70) and Thailand’s Kan Bunnabodee (68), who matched the championship record round of 64 on Thursday, were tied sixth at nine-under 207.
The third edition of the championship, organised by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), is being held in Abu Dhabi. The final round for the four-day competition takes place on Saturday, 13 November.
Vongtaveelap's Perfect Finish
“I am so happy and excited about the finish. It was perfect. The last seven shots were exactly how I wanted to hit them,” said Vongtaveelap, who, remarkably, has 19 wins and eight runner-up finishes in domestic events in the last two-year cycle of World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) events.
“I’ve come here thinking I want to win the championship. So this is a good way to go into the final round. But I know I need to play well as there are many good players in the field.
Following a bogey at the second hole in the opening round, Vongtaveelap has not dropped any shots in the last 53 holes of the championship.
Hashimoto, the 19-year-old WAGR® Number 121 from Hyogo, added a third straight round of four-under-par-68. She made four birdies on the front nine and a birdie on the 16th made up for a bogey at the 11th.
“I had a lot of birdies on the front nine so I had great start today. When I made a bogey on 11th, I got a bit nervous but I did not play too badly,” said Hashimoto. “Tomorrow is another day. I will go out and try my best.”
The 22-year-old Bennett was frustrated not to capitalise on her early momentum and felt putter went cold.
“It was frustrating. I had a lot of opportunities and just could not get them to drop today. I had three birdies in a row and then that was it. At least par trends aren't too bad. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the day,” said the WAGR number 209 from Mollymook, New South Wales.
— Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Golf Championship (@WAAPGolf) November 12, 2021Cheered on by her teammates, India’s Natalii Gupta, a nominated player of the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) and the only local to make the cut, added a second straight three-under-par 69 round to improve to tied 16th place at four-under-par 212.
The 17-year-old, born and brought up in the UAE, was one-over at the turn but made a birdie on the 10th hole and then closed with three straight birdies.
“It's pretty cool. I’ve never had people watch me before and for them to be supporting me this week, it's just wonderful, said Gupta.
“I could have started better, but it was a good finish. I got to make some birdies towards the end. I was struggling with the putter a bit on the front. Then I just trusted my stroke towards the end and that got me going.”
The championship was won in its inaugural year by Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, who has graduated to become the number one player on the Ladies European Tour (LET) this season, and by Japan’s Yuka Yasuda in 2019. A total of 78 players from 16 nations are taking part this week.
WAAP is one of the most important events on the calendar for players from the Asia-Pacific region, with the champion golfer earning a place in two major championship fields - the AIG Women’s Open and the Amundi Evian Championship, as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship and an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.