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Patty Tavatanakit and 18-year-old Atthaya Thitikul lead home game in Thailand after opening 64s

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Even though fans weren’t there to see it, Thailand’s best put on a spectacular show in the opening round of the Honda LPGA Thailand in Chonburi.

Major champion Patty Tavatanakit returned home for the first time since before the pandemic and poured in nine birdies en route to 8-under 64, while her 18-year-old compatriot, Atthaya Thitikul, matched the effort on the strength of two eagles.

Former No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, the first Thai player to win a major, sits in a share of third at 7 under with Nanna Koerstz Madsen. Amy Yang, a three-time winner of this event, opened with a 69.

“I hit it good and I left myself in really good position just on the green,” said Tavatanakit, how the highest-ranked Thai player at No. 12. “I feel like made some mistakes here and there, but I was able to recover and just walk out of the hole with a lot of pars when it wasn’t birdie.”

Tavatanakit took a share of third last week in Singapore and said that while she’s home for the first time in a long time, the COVID-19 protocols still make it difficult.

“I want to see my family, I want to see my friends,” she said. “I haven’t seen my best friend for two years. It’s just still tough time. I just feel like that, little bit kind of looked at it in a different perspective. Like I’m here to work, not here on vacation.”

Thitikul, 18, first played in the Honda LPGA Thailand three days after her 14th birthday back in 2017 when she finished 37th. She’d go on to become the youngest player to ever win a professional tournament at 14 years, 4 months and 19 days when she claimed the Ladies European Tour’s Ladies European Thailand Championship by five strokes. She won the event again at age 16 as an amateur in 2019.

Thitikul turned professional in January of 2020 and finished T-4 at the NSW Women’s Open in Australia. She returned home to Thailand after the COVID-19 pandemic struck and won five times on the Thai LPGA Tour, securing the Order of Merit title. She called Thursday’s opening round “amazing.”

No Thai player has ever won the Honda LPGA Thailand event, though many got their start here.

“I think it means a lot to me and to all the Thai players,” said Thitikul. “This is the biggest women’s tournament in Thailand.”

Jutanugarn, a two-time major champion who became the youngest player to ever qualify for an LPGA event at age 11 when she played in Thailand, nearly won this event in 2013 when she led by two strokes going into the final hole. Jutanugarn ultimately tripled the 18th and lost by a shot to Inbee Park.

Jutanugarn’s most recent LPGA victory, her career 10th, came in July 2018. The strong play of the young Thai players she helped to inspire now serves as added motivation.

“Every time I watch (Patty) play I feel so impressed,” said Jutanugarn. “And Atthaya, she’s really young and how she handles all the pressure and how she’s been playing so well is so inspiring.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/06/lpga-patty-tavatanakit-atthaya-thitikul-thailand/

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