Jean cards opening 65 to lead at Sentosa

Atthaya ‘Jean’ Thitikul / Photo by Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific

Thai prodigy Atthaya ‘Jean’ Thitikul shot a six-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Japan’s Yuka Yasuda after the first round of the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific at Sentosa Golf Club.

Korean Hae-ran Ryu and Japan’s Mone Inami were joint third after rounds of 68 put them one ahead of an eight-strong group including Malaysia’s Natasha Oon and New Zealand’s Wenyung Keh.

Thitikul, who turned 15 on Tuesday, is one of two players in the field to have won a professional event, having won the Ladies European Thailand Championship in Pattaya last July before the-then 14-year-old won the Southeast Asian Games individual and team golds in Malaysia a month later.

The second-ranked Thai in the field at 53rd on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Thitikul again showed her nerveless appetite for the big occasion by carding eight birdies over the New Tanjong course.

“I feel so happy with my result because my putting, driving, irons, chipping – everything – were so good,” said Thitikul, who celebrated her birthday at the championship’s gala dinner on Tuesday.

“I hit 15 or 16 greens in regulation, had a lot of birdies and just enjoyed it so much. I don’t think about winning. Every day, I just think about enjoying my game and doing my best – that’s my goal this week.”

Malaysia’s Oon traded four birdies against two bogeys to keep herself in the hunt.

“Two-under was my goal before the round so when I went three-under, I went, ‘yay’, but then I went two-under again. I did that twice. I landed my tee-shot on the green on 17 but it just rolled over – it was heartbreaking,” said the bubbly Oon.

The 72-hole stroke play event features 83 players from representing 18 nations, with 48 players aged 18 years or under. The field includes 15 players from the WAGR’s top 100 comprising four from Korea, three from Japan, two each from Australia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, and one each from China and the Philippines.

The winner will earn invitations to both the ANA Inspiration (29 March-1 April) at Mission Hills Country Club in California and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (2-5 August) at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in England, as well as next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Championship, also at Sentosa Golf Club.

The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship was developed by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) and The R&A to nurture talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite female amateurs to the international stage.

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