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Atthaya Thitikul, the young prodigy of Thailand who appears as the next queen of golf

Asian golfers are the great dominators of this sport. It is enough to look at the world ranking to verify that hegemony: 5 of the top 10 (including the number one in the world, the South Korean Jin Young Ko), 27 of the best 50 and 55 of the first hundred are players from that continent. Thailand It has been gaining ground in recent years and is the third with the most representatives (six) in this last elite group, behind South Korea (29) and Japan (17). And the best player in that country is Atthaya Thitikula young prodigy who last weekend won her first title in the LPGA Tourin which it was only his fifth appearance as a professional on the American circuit.

Born in Ratchaburi, the Thai was crowned in the JTBC Classic disputed in Carlsbad, California, by defeating the Danish Nanna Koerstz Madsenafter signing the lowest round of the week (64 hits, eight under par) and being tied with the European in 272 hits (-16).

At 19 years and 25 days, Thitikul became the youngest winner on the tour since the Canadian Brooke Henderson will conquer the Portland Classic of 2016 with 18 years, nine months and 23 days.

“My mind is crazy right now. I can’t believe I became an LPGA winner. It feels amazing. It means the world to me, it’s a very significant win for my career,” said the Thai, who jumped up in the ranking and is the new number five in the world.

His victory in the Californian competition may have surprised more than one, but Thitikul has been making waves for several years in the world of golf, a sport that he began practicing at a very young age to improve his health.

“When I was a girl, I always got sick when the weather changed. My dad wanted me to play sports to help improve my health and offered me a choice between tennis and golf, two that could become a career in the future,” she said in one interview published last year on the page of the European Circuit (LET).

Thitikul started playing golf at the age of six to improve his health. Photo Donald Miralle/Getty Images/AFP

“I thought that tennis was going to be difficult and hard because you have to run all the time. So I chose golf and at six years old they took me to learn from professionals. I liked it a lot and I never stopped practicing it. Although I realized that I didn’t It’s as easy as I thought. In tennis, you have to use your whole body. In golf, you use your body and your mind,” he said.

After dazzling with her talent on the fields of her country in her early years, Thitikul finished second in the Thailand Amateur Open in August 2016, when he was only 13 years and 6 months old. Thus, he earned a place to play, as an amateur, the Honda LPGA Thailand, of the American circuit. He debuted three days after his 14th birthday and finished 37th out of 66 competitors.

Four months later, he played his first tournament on the European tour, receiving an invitation to the Ladies European Thailand Championship, in which he made history. She because she completed all four rounds with 283 strokes (5 under par) and became the youngest player to win a professional golf tour event.

Three days after his 14th birthday, in February 2017, Thitikul made his debut at the Honda LPGA Thailand.  Instagram photo @jeeno.atthaya

Three days after his 14th birthday, in February 2017, Thitikul made his debut at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Instagram photo @jeeno.atthaya

On that occasion he also improved a record held by Henderson, who had won a Canadian tour tournament in June 2012 at the age of 14 years and nine months. A curious fact: being an amateur, he could not take the 45 thousand euros prize that the tournament gave and that remained in the hands of the Mexican Ana Menéndezhis escort in the classification.

Her consecration marked the beginning of a career that, in just five years -and an important break in the middle due to the coronavirus pandemic-, has already led her to be one of the best in the world. After that celebration in front of her people, Thitikul won the gold medal in the mixed team event of the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games 2018 and won four LET titles.

Last year, in addition, he finished fifth in the The Evian Championshipone of the five women’s golf Majors, in which she had debuted in that consecration 2017. And on Sunday, she was crowned for the first time on the American circuit.

Thitikul and his partner Vanchai Luangnitikul won mixed team gold at Buenos Aires 2018. Instagram photo @jeeno.atthaya

Thitikul and his partner Vanchai Luangnitikul won mixed team gold at Buenos Aires 2018. Instagram photo @jeeno.atthaya

“After that first victory in 2017, my life changed. Many doors opened and I was able to gain experience at a very young age. To have played a Major at 14 years old was a dream. But it made me realize that what was happening to me was not It was a dream, it was my reality and I had to enjoy every moment”, he commented.

Talented by nature, the Thai woman – who turned professional in 2020 and is playing her first season on the LPGA this year – has no doubt that one of the keys to her success lies in the particular way in which she approaches each competition.

If you are going to be a professional golfer you have to work very hard on your game. It’s what I do because I want to be better every day. But I try not to take it too seriously. Golf is part of my life, but it is not my whole life. I realized that it is important to enjoy the moments, take it easy, in a simple way, “she reflected.

“I think I’m programmed to play better when I enjoy myself. If I take things too seriously, if I’m thinking too much about the end result and I don’t smile, I don’t play well,” said Thitikul, the Thai golf prodigy who has already given her first blow in the most important circuit in the world.

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