Atthaya Thitikul may only be 19, but it seems like she has been at the top echelons of the golfing scene for years.
Well, the reason for that is she kinda has.
She became the youngest golfer to win a professional tournament at the Ladies European Tour’s Thailand Championship back in 2017, aged just 14, and never looked back, capping a sensational 2022 with her first victory on the LPGA Tour at the JTBC Classic, rose to the NO. 1 ranking in the world and was named LPGA Rookie of the Year.
Now she is ready to break more new ground in 2023, starting at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International this week.
“I had a really good off-season,” the now world No. 4 said. “I spent time with my family before getting back to work for this event.
“I’ve been working with my coach on what I have to do and what I have to focus more on this year.”
Thitikul is aiming to go one better at Royal Greens this year after finishing second to Lydia Ko on her last visit in 2021 (she also lost out to Marianne Skarpnord at the Aramco Team Series – London that year).
“It’s nice to come back here for the Ladies European Tour events. It seems like my home so I am always grateful to compete in Saudi again because of everything they are doing here to elevate women’s golf more and more every day, every year.”
With the prize money on offer at the Saudi Ladies now up to $5 million to match the men’s event here, it is certainly clear the work Aramco, Golf Saudi and the Kingdom’s PIF are doing, and it is not lost on Thitikul in the slightest.
“Actually I’ve got to say, it’s amazing and it’s crazy that men’s and women’s equal prize money,” she said. “We haven’t seen this before. I think it’s a good sign to have Aramco help women’s golf get better and bigger worldwide.
“A lot of LPGA players are now coming to this event, so hopefully we can have even more tournaments like this in the future through the Ladies European Tour an LPGA together.
Despite her loss to Ko, Thitikul has only fond memories of her time here.
“I remember that final round with Lydia. We both had good rounds but I just couldn’t beat her. She shot like 6-, 7-under and I shot like 5 or 6. That was an incredible memory.
“I’m just young and a new face, getting to play with all the top players, it’s a really amazing experience for me. But I still have a lot to learn from them.
“I think the LET is also elevating the game and it is getting bigger and bigger.”