Aug 04, 2018: Lytham St Annes, England – Until two years ago, there had never been a winner from Thailand on the LPGA Tour. Come Sunday, the Tour could have its fourth Thai winner of the year. India’s Aditi Ashok maintains consistency with a similar par 72 on day two. Aditi shot two birdies and equal number of bogeys to continue her race at T45.
Pornanong Phatlum opened with back-to-back, bogey-free rounds of 67 to take the 36-hole lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Phatlum is in position to become the fourth player from Thailand to win on the LPGA Tour in 2018. Playing with a renewed confidence and a refreshed swing following a tune-up with her Thai coach, who she saw for the first time two weeks ago after nearly a year, Phatlum takes a one-stroke lead into the weekend in search of her first win on Tour. Rookie Georgia Hall, the JLPGA’s Mamiko Higa and four-time winner Minjee Lee sit one behind at 9-under par.
“I’m very confident on my game this week,” Phatlum said after her round. “I just try to play my game and try to plan every day get away from the bunker, so I can hit like every shot like very good on the round.”
Links golf has been a challenge for Phatlum. This week, she will make her second cut in eight appearances after recording her first sub-70 rounds in the Championship on Thursday and Friday. Phatlum played last week’s event in Scotland to prepare for the major test and walked away with a T28 finish. The event was won by her countrywoman Ariya Jutanugarn.
“Links course is pretty hard for me,” Phatlum explained. “Every year I just try to plan to do my best. And yeah, I didn’t have good times, so right now I just like got more experience and like more confidence on my swing.”
Twenty years after Se Ri Pak inspired a generation to take up the game, a new group from Thailand is exerting its influence on the LPGA Tour. Currently, there are 12 players from Thailand on the Tour. It is the second most from any country outside the United States, behind only South Korea with 23. Phatlum, now 28-years-old, was the first to take up regular membership on Tour when she joined in 2009 and has been a similar role model to the Thai players as Pak was to the Koreans.
In 2016, Ariya Jutanugarn made history as the first player from Thailand to win one of golf’s major championships when she won the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Her victory should have been harbinger of the success that was coming. And while Ariya has been the most successful Thai player, with 10 victories to date, her sister Moriya, and Thidapa Suwannapura, each won for the first time in 2018.
“Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn, they inspire all the Thai golfers a lot,” said Phatlum, who is one of nine Thai players in the field at Lytham. “We know we can do it and we can win tournaments on tour. So, everyone just try to work more hard.”
And the next generation of Thai players is already waiting in the wings.
Atthaya Thitikul, a 15-year-old amateur from Thailand, finished low amateur at the ANA Inspiration and is poised to do the same again this week. Thitikul was the only amateur to make the cut in Lytham.