Patty savours sweet Honda LPGA Thailand success

Roared on by her adoring fans, Patty Tavatanakit made a gutsy final-hole birdie to write her name into Honda LPGA Thailand folklore.

Seven days after claiming her maiden Ladies European Tour title in Saudi Arabia, the 24 year old eked out a dramatic one-stroke victory in the US$1.7 million LPGA Tour showcase at Siam Country Club.

Three shots clear of the field at the start of the final round, Tavatanakit closed with a five-under-par 67 over the Old Course to become only the second home winner in the Honda LPGA Thailand’s 17 year history.

“This is a dream come true, to win in my home country and in front of my parents,” said an emotional Tavatanakit, after posting a 72-hole total of 21-under 267 – one ahead of Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, who soared into contention with a best-of-the-week 63.

Two strokes further back on 270 in a share of third place were the Korean duo of Kim Sei-young (65) and Choi Hye-jin, who covered the final nine holes in 29 for a 66.

For most of the day, Tavatanakit appeared to be in cruise control, extending her lead to four shots after her fourth birdie of the day at the 10th following an exquisite flop shot to tap-in distance.

But making it to the winning line from there proved far from straightforward, especially after a scrappy bogey at the short par-four 15th which left the door ajar for fast-finishing Valenzuela, playing two flights ahead of the Thai.

Having holed out from the fairway for an eagle-two at the fifth, the Swiss Stanford University alum strung together a remarkable stretch of seven successive threes from the 11th followed by a testing six-foot putt for a birdie-four on 18 to draw level with Tavatanakit at the top of the leaderboard on 20-under.

Having bounced back from that dropped shot on 15 by holing a 10-footer for birdie at 16 and making a knee-trembling five-footer for par on 17, the home favourite now needed to conjure a birdie at the final hole to win. A par would have meant a play-off.

After splitting the fairway with her drive, Tavatanakit struck a mid-iron to the elevated green which came up fractionally short of the putting surface, leaving an uphill chip which she executed perfectly, her ball coming to rest inches from the cup.

Honda LPGA Thailand
Image courtesy of Honda LPGA Thailand

After tapping in for the winning birdie, Tavatanakit struggled to hold back the tears as her fellow-Thai players rushed on to the green and doused her in water.

She recovered her composure sufficiently to speak eloquently at the prize-giving ceremony, thanking her team, friends, family and the galleries before being presented with a cheque for US255,000 to go with the US$750,000 she collected last week.

Her Siam Country Club win may not have been as clearcut as her seven-shot romp in Saudi, but that mattered not to Tavatanakit for whom it was her first LPGA Tour success since her breakthrough win at the 2021 Chevron Championship, one of the five women’s Majors.

She said: “I was so nervous today. I don’t know if I showed it a little bit, but playing in front of everyone who came out and supported me it gave me a little bit of an extra boost.

“I was outside the ropes at one point in my life and now I’m inside and get to play with all these amazing girls. They’re the best in the world. To be able to close it is pretty surreal.

“I was eating a lot on the front nine just so I have plenty of energy on the back. I’m really proud of the way I hung in there on the back nine.”

Tavatanakit is the sixth player from Thailand to earn at least two LPGA Tour victories, following in the footsteps of Pajaree Anannarukarn, Atthaya Thitikul, Moriya Jutanugarn and Jasmine Suwannapura (all two wins) and Ariya Jutanugarn, whose 12 triumphs include the 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand.

For the second year in succession, Lilia Vu provided her own grandstand finish to the Honda LPGA Thailand.

In 2023, her closing 64 earned her a stunning come from behind victory which proved the catalyst for a memorable year during which she won four times and ascended to number one in the world.

This year she signed off with a bogey-free 65 that saw her rise into equal seventh spot and leave her to ponder what might have been without a back nine 40 in an opening-day 73 that left her languishing in 60th place.

But not everyone managed to join the final-day birdie barrage.

For Celine Boutier of France, the world number three, and China’s Yin Ruoning, ranked fourth, it was an unexpected struggle, both reigning Major champions signing off with two-over-par 74s.

Boutier ended in a share of 49th place on five-under 283 with Yin two shots back tied for 58th.

In the battle of the amateurs, bragging rights went to Suvichaya Vinijchaitham, who earned her LPGA Tour debut here by dint of winning last month’s Honda LPGA Thailand National Qualifier.

Joint sixth overnight, Suvichaya posted a final-round 71 to finish joint 18th on 12-under 276 – five shots and 23 places ahead of fellow 17-year-old Eila Galitsky, who ended her campaign with a 73.

Based on their outstanding performances this week, it would be no surprise to see the names of Suvichaya and Galitsky following Ariya and Tavatanakit onto the Honda LPGA Thailand roll of honour in the not too distant future.

For more details about the event, make sure to follow updates at their website, Facebook page; Honda LPGA Thailand, and Instagram account; hondalpgathailand.

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