08 Oct 2021 | Amateur golf |
WAAP draws world class field
By R&A Media
Some of the finest players in the Asia-Pacific region are aiming to emulate the illustrious alumni of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship when the region’s premier women’s event is held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates capital from 10-13 November.
The WAAP – won in its inaugural year by Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul and by Japan’s Yuka Yasuda in 2019 – returns to the international golf schedule after it was cancelled last year because of pandemic-related restrictions.
Organised by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), WAAP has become the most important event in the calendar for the players, with the champion earning places in major championships - the AIG Women's Open and the Amundi Evian Championship - and also an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women's Amateur.
Thitikul, who also finished runner-up to Yasuda in Japan, has already climbed to 27th in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking since turning professional last year and has won two titles on the Ladies European Tour this season. She also enjoys a comfortable lead in the Race to Costa Del Sol, the LET Order of Merit.
Philippines’ Yuka Saso and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, who were tied second and tied 15th respectively in the inaugural WAAP in Singapore, became major winners this year. Tavatanakit won the ANA Inspiration in April and 19-year-old Saso was the US Women's Open champion in June.
Their success can inspire the next wave of hugely talented players from throughout the Asia-Pacific region to follow in their footsteps and use WAAP as a launch pad for their own careers.
Among those who have already confirmed their participation are Youmin Hwang, Korea’s Women’s Amateur Golf Champion, who is ranked sixth in the world, and the Chinese players Xiaowen Yin and Lei Ye, ranked ninth and 13th respectively.
It will be Hwang’s maiden WAAP appearance, but she is well aware of the opportunity it presents. The 19-year-old has been in fine form this year, winning two amateur titles in her home country after an impressive tied-fourth place finish while playing against seasoned professionals in the DB Group The Korea Women’s Open in June.
“As a player, you always want to compete against the best fields in the world. Playing the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific in Abu Dhabi will be an exciting challenge for me. I am looking forward to testing my game on a formidable golf course like Abu Dhabi Golf Club and in foreign conditions,” said Hwang.
“The rewards of winning the championship are incredible. To be able to play two major championships and have a possibility of playing a round at Augusta National Golf Club, I know every player will try extra hard to finish on top of the leaderboard.”
China’s Yin has been in outstanding form ever since golf made a comeback in her country following the first COVID-19 lockdown last year. Since August 2020, she has played 13 events, won eight of them (including three professional titles on the China LPGA tour) and her worst finish has been a ninth place in a professional tournament on August 20 last year.
“I was fortunate to be part of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific in 2019 and I did well to finish tied 12th in Japan,” said Yin. “However, I know I am much better all-round player now and it would be amazing if I can add to my victories in Abu Dhabi.”
The Peter Harradine-designed National course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club opened in 1998 and features saltwater lakes, ornamental trees and palms along lush playing surfaces, strategic bunkering and large greens. It has been a permanent host venue of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which is one of the premier Rolex Series events on the European Tour.
The WAAP was developed by The R&A and APGC to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to the international stage. The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter in 2018 and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
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