Womens Amateur Asia-Pacific

World-class field set sights on glory in Thailand

The R&A
25 Jan 24
3 mins

Defending champion Eila Galitsky of Thailand and last year’s runner-up Korean teenager Minsol Kim, two of the world’s foremost female golfing prospects, will spearhead a star-studded line-up at the sixth edition of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship.

Fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®), 17-year-old Kim will be the highest-placed player in the 90-strong field when the WAAP returns to the Waterside Course at Siam Country Club (SCC) in Pattaya, Thailand from 1-4 February. However, home favourite Galitsky is aiming to fend off Kim and become the first two-time winner of the WAAP.  Reflecting on her win at the Singapore Island Country Club last year, Galitsky said, “Going into WAAP last year I didn’t think I had a shot because of all the great players, like top-ten players, in the field but once I started getting more comfortable, I started to think I could probably do it.

Champion’s belief

“In the practice round I think I lost seven balls so I was just focused on trying to make the cut. After the first round I was three-under-par and I was in the top-five and was thinking maybe it’s not too bad. “In the final round, I didn’t feel like I had a big lead, even though it was four or five shots, because anything could happen. It didn’t start to feel real until I hit the second shot on the par-five (18th hole) when I hit it on the green. Minsol, who was in second place, and chasing me hit it in the water and so I thought ‘Hey I’ve got this’ and I went on to two-putt for birdie. “After I made the winning putt, I let out a sigh of relief. The pressure I felt going into the last day was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It felt really heavy, but I just tried to play golf and have fun.”

Major opportunities await

No fewer than nine players from the top-50 and 19 from the top-100 in the WAGR (as of 17 January) are taking part in the championship that offers life-changing opportunities to the winner, including exemptions into three major championships in 2024 –  the AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews, the Amundi Evian Championship in France and The Chevron Championship in the United States of America. The winner will also receive invitations to a handful of other elite championships such as the Hana Financial Group Championship, ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open, The  121st Women’s Amateur Championship and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Galitsky highlights the importance of these incredible opportunities for young Asia-Pacific golfers. “The WAAP is definitely one of the biggest events here in Asia for amateurs,” she added. It’s such a great opportunity for the winner to play in the majors and other pro events. “I had never played an LPGA event before winning WAAP. To jump straight into the majors I was really nervous. At the AIG Women’s Open I played with Ariya (Jutanugarn) who has been my idol for such a long time. To see her play in person and the strike she has on the golf ball was just so impressive. "Once you are playing at that level with all the best players in the world you naturally grow, your game naturally gets better and I definitely think I am better for the experience.” 

Eila Galitsky - Thailand

“There is definitely a lot of expectations from those around me, and myself, when I come back to WAAP. I have never experienced being a defending champion and the pressure that brings so I am just going to go out and have fun.”

Strong Japanese contingent

Joining Kim and Galitsky among the favourites will be the Japanese quintet of Hinano Muguruma (21st in the WAGR), Sayaka Teraoka (22), Saori Iijima (32), Mamika Shinchi (39) and Rin Yoshida (44), as well as Korean Soomin Oh (48) and Indian Avani Prashanth (50). More than a third of the players in the field will feel at home having competed at the SCC’s Waterside Course in the fourth iteration of the WAAP in 2022. Kim participated, ending in a tie for 13th. That proved the prelude to a memorable year for her in 2023 with 12 top-ten finishes in WAGR events, including wins in the Dream Park Cup and National Sports Festival in Korea and second place to Galitsky in the WAAP. Furthermore, Kim was a key member of the Korean teams that won the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship for the Espirito Santo Trophy in Abu Dhabi and the Asia-Pacific Ladies Invitational Team Championship for the Queen Sirikit Cup in the Philippines, and claimed the silver medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Professional experience for Galitsky

It’s also been a momentous 12 months for Galitsky since her five-stroke WAAP success in Singapore.  As well as capturing the individual silver medal and team gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in  Cambodia, she won a team gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games, earned low amateur honours in the Chevron Championship in Texas and finished in the top-12 in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Abu Dhabi. She also reached the last-64 in the Women’s Amateur Championship in England and competed in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Amundi Evian Championship, AIG Women’s Open and Hana Financial Group Championship. At SCC, where she tied for 35th in 2022, she’ll be bidding to set two records – the first two-time winner of the WAAP and the first player to defend her title. Galitsky added, “There is definitely a lot of expectations from those around me, and myself, when I come back to WAAP. It’s not that important that I win it again. Obviously I would like to, but I just want to play well. I have never experienced being a defending champion and the pressure that brings so I am just going to go out and have fun.” 

About the championship

In the first five editions of the WAAP, players from Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul and Galitsky), Japan (Yuka Yasuda and Mizuki Hashimoto) and Chinese Taipei (Ting-hsuan Huang) have held aloft the sought-after trophy.
The WAAP championship was developed by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a route for Asia-Pacific’s elite women amateurs to the international stage.
The R&A is supported by championship event partners that share its commitment to developing golf in the Asia-Pacific. The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is proudly supported by Hana Financial Group, ISPS Handa, Nippon Kabaya Ohayo Holdings, Puma, Samsung, Singha, Ricoh and Rolex.  For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit the championship website at www.randa.org/WAAP