Womens Amateur Asia-Pacific

Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Powers Asia’s AIG Women’s Open Challenge

The R&A
01 Aug 22
3 mins

The AIG Women’s Open has long been a happy hunting ground for Asia-Pacific golfers – and the trend is only strengthening. Since  it was first contested in 1976, no fewer than 12 different Asia-Pacific residents have won 16 editions of the storied Championship.

Remarkably, since it was afforded major status in 2001, the trophy has come to the Asian region 11 times in 21 Championships. From  4-7 August, the AIG Women’s Open will be played across the famed Muirfield links for the first time and given the strength of the Asia-Pacific players on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings another champion from the region could be lifting the trophy come Sunday.   Six of the top ten in the world standings are from the Asia-Pacific, with an additional seven in the top 20. Included in that top echelon are three graduates of the inaugural edition of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship in 2018, which was established by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation to provide a pathway for the region’s leading young amateurs golfers. 

Thai Hopes

Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, the winner of the inaugural WAAP at age 15, has risen to number five in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but would dearly like to add a major title to her burgeoning resumé. “The WAAP has given me incredible exposure to the AIG Women’s Open and I’m really hoping to emulate Ariya Jutanugarn and bring the trophy to Thailand once more,” said Thitikul, who won the Smyth Salver as the low amateur at the Championship in 2018 and 2019. “I can’t speak highly enough of the doors the WAAP opened for me, nor the friendships I made there that are still important to me as a professional today.” Her countrywoman Patty Tavatanakit, herself only 18 in that maiden WAAP, has risen to number 17 in the world and has already won a major – the 2021 ANA Inspiration. “It’s great to be part of a wave of young women representing Thailand at the biggest championships -- like the AIG Women’s Open,” said Tavatanakit.  “We’ve had great role models and now it’s our turn to keep the next wave of young girls at home inspired.”
Mizuki Hashimoto of Japan will compete at the AIG Women's Open this year following her stunning Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific win in Abu Dhabi last November.

Saso Success

Japan’s Yuka Saso, runner-up to Thitikul in 2018, is another woman among the group who has tasted major championship success having won the US Women’s Open in 2021 when she beat compatriot Nasa Hataoka – another top contender at Muirfield – in a play-off. “I think the fact that we competed against one another in championships like WAAP has helped us to feel more comfortable in the majors,” Saso said.  “Today, as a professional, it’s special to have the same competitors around me as I did during my amateur days. It's a great feeling to see those peers developing into world-class players beside me.” New Zealand legend Lydia Ko, Australians Minjee Lee and Hannah Green, 2019 AIG Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno, another from Japan, and a host of Korean superstars should also figure prominently in south-eastern Scotland for the year’s final major. Among this Korean contingent, which also includes world number one Jin Young Ko, is veteran Inbee Park who won the 2015 Women’s British Open. 

Key Amateur Pathways

“There’s so much depth in golf in the Asia-Pacific region these days, it’s so good to see,” said Park, a seven-time major champion. “There was always talent, but the pathways to get to championships like the AIG Women’s Open are fantastic for golf in Korea and the entire region. Now young girls can see this pathway which is great.” Of the other top contenders in in the AIG Women’s Open defending champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden will head the European challenge that also features Frenchwoman Celine Boutier and the rapidly emerging Leona Maguire of Ireland. The North American contingent will also be strong with American sisters Nelly and Jess Korda, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang and Jennifer Kupcho alongside Canadian Brooke Henderson as major threats. The AIG Women’s Open will take place from 4-7 August  at Muirfield and will screen around the world. Check your local guides for details. For more information on the AIG Women’s Open, visit the website www.aigwomensopen.com. The AIG Women’s Open is proudly supported by VisitScotland.