By Richard Talbot
Thursday, June 21 sees the return of the Ladies European Thailand Championship to Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club. It was a year ago that the Pattaya course hosted the same tournament which was won in dramatic style by the 14-year old Thai schoolgirl Atthaya Thitikul, who became the youngest ever winner on the LET. The event will be held over four days and will be televised around the world as the 126 international golfers battle it out to win the trophy and a share of the 300,000 Euro prize money on offer.
Last year’s global television audience reached 170 million as Atthaya, or “Jeen” as she is more commonly known, became the youngest ever winner of a professional golf tournament and the past 12 months have proved that her two shot victory at Phoenix was no fluke. In February she won the Asia Pacific Amateur competition in Singapore, and a week later she returned to the same Sentosa course to finish eighth in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
This year sadly “Jeen” will be absent from Phoenix as she attempts to confirm her place in the Thailand team that is participating in the Asian Games in Indonesia later in the year. However this does not detract from the quality of the field that is being assembled for the tournament.
The 70 LET golfers who are flying over will include a number of players that are featuring well in this year’s LET circuit. Australia’s Sarah Kemp is currently lying second on the order of merit after a runner-up spot in the Lalla Meryem Cup, and is coming to Phoenix looking to confirm her status at the top of the table. She will be joined by Florentyna Parker, Marianne Skarpnord and Olivia Cowan who are also in the top ten, and will hope to enhance their reputations with their performances on the eastern seaboard of Thailand.
International hopes will be further strengthened by the presence of last year’s runners up, Mexico’s Ana Menendez, and Amy Boulden from Wales who finished in fourth place.
With such a talented field assembled it would be easy to underestimate the strength of Thailand’s challenge, however there are a number of golfers from the home nation who will have a real chance of success at Phoenix. Currently the Thai LPGA is half way through its season and several players are performing admirably and will press strong claims next week.
Wannasirir Sirisampant from Nakomnayok is lying in third place in the Thailand LPGA order of merit and will be a real contender while just ahead in the merit table is Wanchana Poruangrong from Surin who is a model of consistency. But the lady currently leading the rankings, and the winner of the last two events, is Arpichaya Yubol. The 16-year old from Saraburi is yet another talented teenager that is emerging out of the Kingdom.
The depth of talent that will be on show makes it impossible to predict a winner but it should once again produce a magnificent and exciting competition.