Latest Thai LPGA winner is not named Jutanugarn

A Thai golfer won the LPGA Marathon Classic last week, and her name was not Mo or May. Thidapa Suwannapura bested two-time major champion Britanny Lincicome to take the title in a playoff and become the third Thai to win on the women’s professional golf tour following in the fairways behind Ariya (May) and Moriya (Mo) Jutanugarn.

Thidapa’s victory, and the talented group of Thai amateur women golfers who may eventually turn professional, signal that the Kingdom is emerging as a newfound force in women’s golf.

A 25- year old native of Bangkok and a graduate of Ramkamhaeng University, Thidapa, whose nickname is Jasmine, admitted that she had been battling through tough times this golfing season and was concerned about her ability to remain on the professional tour. Three years after undergoing back surgery that she feared might end her career, however, she did not doubt her ability to play top-notch golf.

“I’ve been struggling the whole year, trying to keep my tour card, trying my best. And finally, all the work I’ve been doing has come out and shown today,” Thidapa said. She spoke after sinking a birdie putt for her first victory on the LGPA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) tour at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.

Having won several times as an amateur, Thidapa turned professional in 2011 and had five victories on the All Thailand Golf Tour, one win on the Symetra Tour, and one win on the Ladies Professional European Tour before notching her premier LPGA victory last week.

When she completed the regulation 72 holes with a final round 65 for a 14-under 270, she did not think it would be good enough to win. A little over one hour later, however, the final day’s battle between overnight leader Brooke Henderson of Canada and Lincicome of the United States ended with Lincicome edging out Henderson, but also finishing with a total of 270.

That meant a playoff. Thidapa was “chilling in the clubhouse, just being silly and stuff,” when she realized “Oh, I have to go warm up and try to win the tournament!”

She dispatched Lincicome by finding the fairway on the first hole, the par-5 18th, and placing her third shot five feet from the pin. As Lincicome hit a bunker and battled for par, Thidapa calmly rolled in her putt for birdie and the win. The victory earned her a spot to compete in the upcoming women’s British Open.

“When you start playing on tour, the first couple years you’re fresh,” Thidapa told Golf Digest. “You’re like a rookie, and you just go out there and play golf. But since you continue playing and more and more every year, the belief in yourself is really important to keep you up there, because the more missed cuts, or you feel down, feel tired. It just means a lot for me to believe in myself more and more. Especially after this week, I feel like I am good enough to be out here.”

And Thailand may have more stars coming to women’s golf in the future. Also last week, Thai women’s amateur golfer Atthaya Thitikul captured the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in Singapore.