Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul is back on Tour and ready to tee it up as she plays in the Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA for the first time.
The 2021 Race to Costa del Sol leader took a break from competitive golf after her second victory of the season at the VP Bank Swiss Ladies Open to go home and refresh.
But the 18-year-old returns to the Ladies European Tour (LET) this week with a lead of over 1400 points in the Race to Costa del Sol with just four tournaments left on the calendar in 2021.
Thitikul, who is ranked 28 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, can’t wait to get back out there and experience teeing it up under the floodlights of the Faldo Course at Emirates Golf Club.
“It was nice to take some time out of competitions and get some rest ahead of the end of the season,” said the Thai teenager. “I haven’t been to Dubai before! This is my first time here in Dubai and my first playing night golf as well. I’m hoping it will turn out to be a good week!
“Everyone knows the situation with the Race to Costa del Sol. I’m not focusing on it because every week is not the same – especially this week. I’m working on something with my putting which I’m not confident on yet, but it should be okay if I adjust it and hopefully it’ll be good.”
In the field this week, Thitikul is joined by compatriots Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn – the world number 23 and 33, respectively.
As well as ISPS Handa World Invitational winner Pajaree Anannarukarn and four-time LET winner Thitikul is happy to have them in Dubai.
She explained: “It’s really good and great to have them here. I’m usually the only player on the LET from Thailand so it’s nice to see some Thai golfers here with me this week.”
Thitikul is not the only player experiencing Dubai for the first time as Ariya Jutanugarn is also excited to experience golf in the spotlight.
“I have never been here before – it is one of my dream destinations I really wanted to come and look around. It is my first time at night golf, but I view it as another experience that I will have to learn from,” said the 12-time LPGA Tour winner.
This week sees a shotgun start with all players beginning their rounds at 4pm local time. Thitikul and Major winner Jutanugarn have been drawn together alongside Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou and the trio will be starting their round from the first hole.
The younger Jutanugarn sister had plenty of praise for the Race to Costa del Sol leader, who finished second behind her at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
“You know to me Atthaya is one of the best players, she works so hard, and her motivation is second to none. Her and Patty Tavatanakit (another young Thai golfer) are so inspiring to me, the way they work hard and practice and work out – all to get better at golf and be the best players they can be. This is very inspiring, and they will both be great players in the future,” she added.
Nuria Iturrioz, who won this tournament in 2019, returns and will tee it up with a vast array of LET winners from this season including Kyriacou (Big Green Egg Open), Lee-Anne Pace (Investec SA Women’s Open), Marianne Skarpnord (ATS – London) and Pia Babnik (Jabra Ladies Open).
Legends of the game are also here with Dame Laura Davies, who holds the record for the most LET wins (45), while two-time winning European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew is also in attendance.
Additionally, 15-year-old Chiara Noja, who has played five LET Access Series events in 2021, will make her professional debut in the city she calls home.
“Turning pro is a big step but one I’m ready to take, especially here in Dubai – the Dubai Moonlight Classic is probably the most emotionally connected event for me,” said the teenager.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to teeing off the in spotlight. It’ll be great to play amongst such a strong field!”
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