As the 21-year-old rookie, few had predicted Tavatanakit would compete at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Earlier this month.
Despite a booming Lydia Ko behind her, Tavatanakit held her nerve to win by two strokes and become the first rookie champion since July Inkster in 1984.
With supporters reaching out to her after her win, Tavatanakit admits it’s “really weird” to accept the fact that she actually won a major.
“Obviously, [to] having a great champion behind my name, it still seems a little strange to me to think, “Oh, I’m actually a major champion,” “said Tavatanakit – who was previously ranked 103rd in the world.
“I’ve dreamed of this moment for a very long time, but having this under my belt is just a weird feeling. It’s just my rookie year, I didn’t expect that to happen at all.
Hard work pays off
Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Tavatanakit started playing golf as a teenager.
“As a Thai player I grew up watching Ariya [Jutanugarn] and Moriya [Jutanugarn] play, “she explained.” They have always been inspired and inspired to all the young players in Thailand, so I feel so honored to be recognized as one of the people who would make golf in Thailand grow. “
After moving to California to play on the UCLA Bruins golf team, she also had a tremendous amateur career, including being the only amateur at the 2018 US Women’s Open.
She turned professional in 2019, winning three times in eight tournaments on the Symetra Tour – the LPGA Development Tour – as well as the Gaëlle Truet Rookie of the Year award.
Her time on the LPGA Tour in 2020 proved to be more difficult – she only managed once in the top 10 in 14 competitions.
However, the addition of coach Grant Waite to his squad helped change Tavatanakit’s fortunes.
“At the end of the year, we figured out the plan we were going to make, and she had a choice to go back to Thailand, hang out with her parents or stay here in the US and work on our game. and prepare for the Tour, ”Waite told CNN Sports.
“And she decided to do it. Now, it’s a lot for a young woman of 20, 21 to do that. But she chose to do it because she felt like she owed it to her career and could do it. And we’ve been working pretty hard on this offseason. “
The hard work paid off, Tavatanakit finishing fifth in the opening event of the LPGA Tour of the 2021 season, then taking his first victory on the LPGA Tour and his first major victory at the ANA.
Although she led throughout the final day, her victory was not easy. New Zealander Ko’s course record equal to 62 certainly tested Tavatanakit.
Describing himself as a “goofball” on the course, Tavatanakit’s main thrill was the relief after making the final putt at the ANA Inspiration and completing the infamous Poppie’s Pond jump that all victims do.
“It was just like a feeling of relief where, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been holding this thing for so long and a lot of self-control, a lot of self-awareness,’ which is all a mental work.
“And when it all just happened and it was just a great relief, like someone just pulled a 100 pound dumbbell out of my chest; it’s that feeling is so light.”
Moving from Thailand to the United States was not easy, but for Tavatanakit it turned out to be an emotional release.
“Since moving here to America, I really feel like I have the freedom to be myself. I feel free spirits running through my system much more than when I was in Thailand, ”she explains. “And with that being said, it just meant being who I am and not being afraid to express my feelings, opinions, emotions and just being kind.
“You don’t have to say certain things to try to fit into society or you don’t need to have certain means to be accepted by people.”
World No. 13 is the third-longest driver on the LPGA Tour, with an average driving distance of 283,786 yards, prompting comparisons between Tavatanakit and big hitter Bryson DeChambeau, who is arguably revolutionizing golf. male.
She doesn’t make any comparisons herself, but admits it’s flattering to hear people think she can change the landscape of women’s golf.
“I remember probably two, three years ago, just a sudden thought, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to make an impact on golf, on women’s golf. And I don’t know how I’m doing- the, but I really want to make an impact.
“And I really think in a lot of ways, not really how far I hit the ball. I show a lot of girls that anyone can do it out there. You don’t have to be n World ° 1 to win. You just be yourself and keep working hard, keep dreaming and be inspired by all your dreams. “
Tavatanakit now intends to win a golf grand slam – winning all five majors at the same time.
Talk about an inspiring dream.