28 Feb 2023 | Amateur golf |

Emerging stars set to shine at Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific

by Contributor

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand won the inaugural Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific championship in 2018 in Singapore.
Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand won the inaugural Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific championship in 2018 in Singapore.

The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship celebrates its fifth anniversary this year in Singapore with a host of emerging stars looking to follow in the footsteps of the inaugural champion on the previous visit to the island state, Atthaya Thitikul.

When the strong field of 85 players from 22 countries assembles for the fifth edition of the championship at the Singapore Island Country Club from 9-12 March, none of them will be short on motivation to emulate the achievements of the Thai former world number one who graduated from the region’s premier championship.

The life-changing opportunities the championship provides – including exemptions into, three major championships: the AIG Women’s Open, the Amundi Evian Championship and the Chevron Championship as well as elite championships such as the Hana Financial Group Championship, Women’s Australian Open, ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur – places WAAP at the pinnacle of the women’s amateur game in the region.

The early exposure on such a prestigious stage is important, and as several WAAP stars have shown recently, it can lead to very fruitful careers as a professional golfer.

When the WAAP was held in Singapore in 2018, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul emerged triumphant following a four-way play-off against Yuka Saso of the Philippines, Yuna Nishimura of Japan and Wenyung Keh of New Zealand.

The field also included Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, who finished in a tie for 15th place.

Thitikul is now a multiple champion on the LPGA and rose to number one in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings during the same week as last year’s WAAP at Siam Country Club in Pattaya, Thailand.

Saso won the US Women’s Open in 2021, while Tavatanakit claimed the ANA Inspiration title that same year. Nishimura turned professional towards the end of 2020 and has already won six titles on the Japan LPGA.

Thitikul, Saso and Tavatanakit all return to Singapore to compete in the HSBC Women’s Championship this week.

Reflecting on her experience at the 2018 WAAP Thitikul commented, “Singapore has so many great memories for me. Winning the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship here in 2018 when I was just 15 years old opened up a world of opportunities to me. I got to compete in my first major championship, the AIG Women’s Open where I was the low amateur.

“I will forever be grateful for the experiences I gained from the WAAP but also for the chance to make so many friends who I now compete with on the LPGA. I wish all the players competing in the WAAP next week the best of luck. Hopefully I see you out here competing on Tour in the future.”

Singapore’s Aloysa Margiela Atienza, who is the highest-ranked player from the host nation, which fields eight players, is appearing in her third WAAP.

The 2022 Southeast Asia Games silver medalist in Vietnam is eager to better her tied 43rd place last year.

“It’s fantastic that Singapore is hosting the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship once again. It is a life-changing opportunity, and I am excited at the prospect of playing in my home country and in front of my friends and families,” said the 24-year-old Atienza, who has been a member of the Singapore National Team since 2020.

“We are all preparing hard for the championship, but I am sure we will also keep an eye on the HSBC Women’s World Championship and be there to follow some of our idols. It’s such a great field. You never know but watching such great players can turn out to be the inspiration that we need.

“I am aware that players like Atthaya, Yuka and Patty were playing WAAP not too long ago. I am going to cheer extra hard for them. And hopefully, a few of us will get to join them on the LPGA very soon and inspire the next generation of players from the Asia-Pacific region.”

The championship shifted back to its original dates earlier in the year after two rescheduled editions because of COVID-19-related adjustments.

It will feature 18 of the top-100 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR), hailing from leading nations such as Japan, Korea, Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Australia.

It will also welcome players from Qatar and Lebanon – two countries making their debut in WAAP this year. In the first four editions, players from Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul), 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 APGC to inspire future generations of women golfers. 

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 Rolex, Nippon Kabaya Ohayo Holdings, Hana Financial Group and Samsung.

For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit the championship website at www.randa.org/WAAP.  

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