“Definitely, I get the recognition, the attention and everyone’s reaching out to me,” she told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell.
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 kept her cool to win by two strokes and become the first rookie champion since July Inkster in 1984.
With supporters reaching out to her the day after her victory, Tavatanakit admits it was “really weird” to come to terms with the fact that she actually won a major.
“Obviously, [to] getting a major champion behind my name, it always seems a little strange to me to think like, “Oh, I’m actually a major champion,” said Tavatanakit – who was previously ranked No. 103 in the world -.
“I’ve dreamed of this moment for a very long time, but having it under my belt is always a weird feeling. It’s just my rookie year, I didn’t expect it to happen at all.”
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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 an inspiration and an inspiration to all the young players in Thailand, so I feel so honored to be recognized as one of the people who would make golf grow. in Thailand. “
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 award for Rookie of the Year.
Her time on the LPGA Tour in 2020 proved more difficult – she only reached the top 10 once 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 of either going back to Thailand, spending time with her parents, or staying here in the US and working on our game and getting ready. 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 it. But she chose to do it because she felt she owed it to her career and that “she could do it. And we’ve been working pretty hard during 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 ‘blunder’ on the course, Tavatanakit’s main thrill was relief after making the final putt at the ANA Inspiration and completing the famous jump into Poppie’s Pond that all victims take.
“It was just like a feeling of relief where, ‘Oh my God, I’ve held this thing for so long and a lot of self-control, a lot of self-awareness,” which is all a mental work there.
“And when it all happened and it was just a great relief, like someone just pulled a 100 pound dumbbell out of my chest; it’s that feeling that is so light.”
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Moving from Thailand to the United States couldn’t have been 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 a lot more than when I was in Thailand.” , she explains. “And that being said, it kind of meant being who I am and not being afraid to express my feelings, opinions, emotions and just being kind.
“You don’t necessarily have to say certain things to try to fit into society, or you don’t need to have certain means of gaining acceptance from people.”
The world No. 13 is the third-longest rider on the LPGA Tour, averaging 283,786 meters, making one compare Tavatanakit and heavy hitter Bryson DeChambeau, who is arguably revolutionizing men’s golf.
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 or 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. do it, but i really just wanna make an impact.
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“And I really think in a lot of ways, not sure 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 stay yourself and keep working hard, keep dreaming and just be inspired by all your dreams. “
Tavatanakit now aims to win a golf grand slam – by winning all five majors at the same time.
Talk about an inspiring dream.