Womens Amateur Asia-Pacific

Vongtaveelap and Baba among top stars competing in Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific

The R&A
21 Sep 22
3 mins

The fourth edition of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has attracted a strong field, including 22 of the top-100 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®  (WAGR).

To be played on the Waterside Course at the Siam Country Club in Thailand from 3-6 November, Asia-Pacific’s premier women’s amateur championship will feature 71 of the region’s finest golfers from 22 countries. Jiyoo Lim of the Republic of Korea is the highest-ranked player in the field at world number nine with three wins in the past year, but all eyes will be on Thailand’s world number 46 Natthakritta Vongtaveelap who is eager to make amends after last year’s championship in Abu Dhabi.  Renowned for her ability to hit the ball a long way off the tee, Vongtaveelap was leading by three shots going into the final round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club before she was reeled in by Japan’s Mizuki Hashimoto in the closing stages. She eventually finished tied second alongside compatriot Kan Bunnabodee and Australia’s Kelsey Bennett.

Major home hope

Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul won the inaugural WAAP in Singapore in 2018 and Vongtaveelap and Oklahoma State University star Rina Tatematsu, world number 80, are two of eight players from the home nation hoping to follow in her footsteps. Vongtaveelap, the 19-year-old from Bangkok, said, “Women’s golf in Thailand is very strong right now. We are not short of inspiration – starting from Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn to Patty Tavatanakit and Atthaya – we have had superstars who are amazing role models for all of us. “The WAAP is the biggest championship we play in Asia-Pacific and is an amazing opportunity for us so early in our careers. We all dream of playing major championships and the girl who wins will be able to play two out of the five next year.” The other players representing the host nation include Taglao Jeeravivitaporn (world number 114), Pimpisa Rubrong, Navaporn Soontreeyapas, Suvichaya Vinijchaitham, Achiraya Sriwong and Elia Galitsky, a quarter-finalist at last month’s R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland.
World number 15 and reigning US Women’s Amateur Champion, Saki Baba, will be hoping to make it a hat trick of wins for Japan when she tees it up in Thailand in November.

Japanese dominance

Japan provided the last two WAAP Champions – Yuka Yasuda in 2019 and Hashimoto in 2021 – and will once again send out a strong contingent of six players  headlined by number 17 Saki Baba. The 17-year-old introduced herself to the international golfing world with her sensational 11&9 win in the final of the US Women’s Amateur in August this year. Prior to her triumph in the US, Baba’s biggest achievement had been winning the Kanto Junior Championship in Japan. Further cementing her rising star status, she led Japan to the bronze medal at last month’s World Amateur Team Championship for the Espirito Santo Trophy in France where she finished fourth in the individual standings.  Baba, who was one of the four amateurs to make the cut in the US Women’s Open, tying for 29th place, said, “I am happy with the way I am playing. I’d love to win the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship, not just for the playing opportunities that comes with it, but also for Japan. The last two champions are from our country, and it would be awesome if I can extend that winning streak to three.” 

Major opportunity in Thailand

The other four players representing Japan are also inside the top-50 of the WAGR including the defending champion Hashimoto (world number 20), Hinano Muguruma (world number 23), Reika Arakawa (world number 28) and Miku Ueta (world number 48).  Australia’s Bennett will return to the championship and is eager to go one better than her Abu Dhabi finish. The world number 82 will be joined in her quest to become the first Australian WAAP champion by world number 34 Kirsten Rudgeley, the 2021 English Women’s Amateur champion. The WAAP has been developed by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to inspire future generations of women golfers and provides the champion with an unparalleled launchpad early in their career through exemptions into multiple women’s major championships and other elite amateur championships.   The winner will be invited to compete in two major championships in 2023 – the AIG Women’s Open and the Amundi Evian Championship. They will also be invited to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Hana Financial Group Championship.

Pathway to success

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive at The R&A, said, “Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing region in world golf and has produced some exceptional talent in women’s golf over a number of years. 

“The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has established itself as the most aspirational title in the women’s amateur game in the region. The championship has played a vital role in the success stories of many players including Atthaya Thitikul, Yuka Saso and Patty Tavatanakit and I am sure our new champion at Siam Country Club will make us equally proud with her achievements.” Taimur Hassan Amin, Chairman APGC, commented, “The depth of field in this year’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is yet another indication of the potential that we have in our region. However, our job is far from over and we have to keep working towards growing women’s golf in all our member countries. A championship like WAAP is a big catalyst in that process.” The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is proudly supported by Rolex, Nippon Kabaya Ohayo Holdings, Trust Golf, Hana Financial Group and Samsung. For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit the championship website at  www.randa.org/WAAP.