Thai teen becomes youngest professional champ

BANGKOK: A Thai teenager became the youngest known winner of a professional golf tournament on Sunday, overcoming huge pressure to secure a two-shot victory at the Ladies European Thailand Championship in Pattaya.
There were gasps from the crowd as Atthaya Thitikul — aged just 14 years and four months — calmly slotted home a must-win final putt on the 18th to see off Ana Menendez of Mexico.
Her victory smashes the current record set by Canada’s Brooke Henderson who won the Canadian Women’s Tour in June 2012 aged 14 years, nine months and three days.
She also beats the Ladies European Tour record held by former number one Lydia Ko who took the 2013 New Zealand Open aged 15 years, nine months and 17 days.
Atthaya, who hails from Thailand’s western province of Rachaburi, turned 14 on 20 February. Local media said she first picked up a golf club aged six.
The shy but seemingly always smiling teenager had a dream week at the 72-par Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club in Pattaya.
She burst into the first day with a two under 70, struck a 71 on day two and another 70 on day three.
She began the final day one shot behind Menendez, 25, facing the daunting task of keeping the finish line in sight.
The first nine she shot two bogeys and a birdie but was helped by a poor start from Menendez who fired four bogeys, giving the rising Thai star a cushion as the two went into the back nine.
If Atthaya felt pressure, she did not show it, firing another birdie on the back nine and calmly slotting home the final par putt. “I’m so proud and so happy for my score and win this week,” she told reporters in slightly broken English moments after her win.
“I’m so excited, thank you so much.”
As an amateur she does not take home any prize winnings. That means the top 45,000 euro ($51,000) prize went to runner-up Menendez, while 27,500 euros went to third placed pro Whitney Hillier. — AFP
Final top scores for the Ladies European Thailand Championship at the 72-par Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club.
283 – Atthaya Tithikul (THA) 70-17-70-72
285 – Ana Menedez (MEX) 68-72-70-75
286 – Whitney Hillier (AUS) 74-72-69-71
287 – Leticia Ras-Anderica (GER) 73-73-74-67; Parinda Phokan (THA) 75-73-71-68; Amy Boulden (WAL) 73-74-67-73.