My thanks to Mark for his comments on my earlier posting where I talked about the US Women’s Open Golf Championship and commented on the strong showing of Asian lady golfers, particularly the Koreans, the “Seoul Sisters” of golf. Mark asked: “And what about the Thai lady golfers? Maybe a separate post on their progress as this would be very interesting”. So here goes:
Whilst no lady Thai golfer has reached prominence yet on the LPGA Tour, there is a whole crop of very talented Thai youngsters coming through. Perhaps the most promising is 23-year old Onnarin “Moo” Sattayabanphot. (Moo means “little pig” in Thai!). At the age of 12, Onnarin (pronounced o-NARE-n) first picked up a club when she went to the driving range with her father. She was so intrigued by how such an odd-shaped club could hit a ball so far off a tee, that she quickly became interested in taking the game up. While in high school at La Salle College in Bangkok, Onnarin captured 11 tournaments in four years, was a member of the Thai national team from 1999-2001, won silver medal as an individual and gold medal as a team member in both the 20th and 21st Southeast Asia Games, and was named 1999 Golfer of the Year by the Thailand Amateur Ladies Golf Association. Two years ago, Onnarin ventured from her home in Bangkok to the United States for the opportunity to play golf at a top university (Purdue) and get a quality education while doing so. Whilst at Purdue, she recorded 15 top-10 finishes in collegiate competition, including one win, was selected for the Big Ten All-Conference First Team selection (2004-2006), and the 2006 NGCA All-American Second Team selection. Last year, before turning Pro, Onnarin was named the 2006 Big Ten Player of the Year and Purdue Female Athlete of the Year. This year she has played eight events on the Duramed Futures Tour, achieving eight top ten finishes, the best being second, and earning US$16,052 to date, ranked 19th. Onnarin missed the cut in the US Women’s Open on +10, but perhaps her happiest moment so far as a Pro was when she achieved a rare double-eagle or albatross on the par-five 11th hole of the Louisiana Pelican Classic last April.
Other Thais making their assault on the Futures Tour this season are Nontaya "Net" Srisawang from Chiang Mai, Huachai from Bangkok, and Tiffany Tavee, actually born in Arizona of Thai parents. 20-year old Nontaya, currently ranked 43rd with two top-ten finishes, knows how to win having come first in 2004 Teens on the Green World Championship, the 2004 Asia Pacific Junior Master Golf Championship, the 2004 Thailand Ladies Amateur Open, the 2005 Hong Kong Ladies Open, the 2005 Phuket Thailand Ladies Master Championship, the 2006 Orient Masters in WenZhou China and the 2007 LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament. I believe Nontaya gave a helping hand to Onnarin by caddying for her at the US Open.
In all there are 17 Thai lady professionals who are potentially capable of winning high-profile tournaments anywhere in the world, including rising players like Pornanong Phatlum, Porani Chutichai, Rungthiwa Pangjan, Tiranan Yoopan, Titiya Plucksataporn, Walailak Satarak and Banchalee Thienthong, as well as seasoned Pro, Rayong’s Russamee Gulyanamitta. 21-year old Porani, from Chiang Rai, has qualified to play in the Step Up Tour in Japan, while Tiranan and Rungthiwa are heading to Japan to play in the Q-School this year. I have deliberately not mentioned yet the popular 17-year old twin sisters, Aree and Naree Wongluekiet, now also living in the United States. Their mother is Thai but they have now opted for Korean citizenship (their father is Korean) and are announced on the first tee as “from Korea”, which seems a shame.
One final footnote that I came across whilst preparing the above and may amuse you. If you think Onnarin Sattayabanphot, or any of the other names in this post, are hard to pronounce, try saying the name of Hawaii’s state fish that is engraved on the wedge carried by Shayna Miyajima of Maui, Hawaii. Believe it or not, ‘Humuhumunukunukuapuaa’ fits on the back of the club. I am told that the fish’s name is pronounced like hum-moo-hum-moo-nooku-nooku-ah-poo-ah-ah. And why does Miyajima have the name of a fish on her golf club? "My club fitter is in San Diego and he’s trying to learn Hawaiian words (!) and I guess he just really liked that one," she said. Feminine logic at its best.
Play fast, swing slow.