Thai teen prodigy Atthaya ‘Jeen’ Thitikul has a lot of positives to take from her runner-up finish to compatriot Ariya Jutanugarn in the Honda LPGA Thailand.
In the lead or a share of it for much of today’s final round at Siam Country Club in Pattaya, the 18-year-old Thitikul dropped a crucial shot with a three-putt bogey on the par-three 17th. After a long weather delay, she missed the green with her second shot on the par-five closing hole and failed to sink a six-footer for birdie, which would have forced a playoff with Jutanugarn who had set the clubhouse lead of 22-under-par.
However, Thitikul’s stellar play and mature demeanour underlined her immense potential to join the likes of former World No 1 Jutanugarn and 2021 ANA Inspiration champion Patty Tavatanakit – who finished joint third – as winners on the LPGA Tour.
“You know this is like my new experience, having been so close with the win. But my last putt, I just felt like, okay, give me a good one and do the best that I can. And, yeah, I’m already proud of myself that I did the best that I can,” said Thitikul, who turned professional in January last year and won five times on the 2020 Thai LPGA Tour.
“I told myself, just do your best. Just focus on what you can control, not what you can’t control, and then just do your best out there and enjoy every single moment of it.”
Playing on a sponsor’s invite in the event for the third time but first as a professional, Thitikul noted she was proud to compete and contend in an LPGA event on home soil. “I’m very proud to be here and it’s always amazing to be in the Honda LPGA Thailand, like in front of all the Thai fans. We know they support us here and it’s an amazing feeling,” said the 2018 Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific winner.
Thitikul enjoyed a superb amateur career, winning numerous titles worldwide and topping the women’s world amateur ranking in 2019. She won the Ladies European Thailand Championship twice as an amateur, the first time in 2017 at age 14 years, 4 months and 19 days which set a new record for youngest winner of a professional event .
It was an emotional 11th LPGA victory for Jutanugarn, ending a long title drought dating back to the 2018 Ladies Scottish Open almost three years ago. The 25-year-old closed with a flawless nine-under-par 63 to pick up her first LPGA title on home soil.
“It feels great to be able to win a tournament again. It feels even more great to be able to win in Thailand,” said Jutanugarn.
The two-time Major winner confided that she had come close to taking a break during the slump, paying tribute to her team for believing in her. “I don’t know how many times I told my psychologist, like, you know, I want to rest, no more, I want to stop for a while.
“I feel like I have really good team around me. I mean, they believe in me more than I believe in myself!”