Women’s golf has a brand-new world number one. The domination of Korean Jin Young Ko was ended by 19-year-old Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand, only the second player in history to have reached this position before the age of 20. Czech fans remember her well from last year’s Tipsport Czech Ladies Open, a competition which she won.
Beroun was an important milestone on her meteoric rise, a journey which she completed this week by taking her place on the throne of women’s golf. Thitikul only turned professional in January 2020, but even then, it was clear how talented she was. After all, she already had two wins on the Ladies European Tour under her belt.
She won both at the domestic Ladies European Thailand Championship, the first one in 2017. She was exactly 14 years, 4 months and 19 days old when she became the youngest golfer in history to triumph at a professional tournament. She then repeated her home victory two years later.
After turning professional, she played tournaments in Australia and mainly at home in Thailand, where she earned five victories in the Thai LPGA in 2020 and won the Order of Merit.
This meant that the next year, she received an invitation to the elite world LPGA tournament. She finished one shot behind her much more famous compatriot Ariya Jutanugarn in second place at the domestic Honda LPGA Thailand competition, so the time had come to test her immense talent outside Thailand as well.
She decided to go the way of the Ladies European Tour, where in her third event of the season, she notched up her first victory in Beroun, which, as we know, was the third of her career in the LET. In doing so, she kicked off a sensational journey which ended in victory in the Race to Costa Del Sol with a huge lead of more than 1,600 points over Pia Babnik of Slovenia who took second placed.
During 2021, Thitikul also chalked up a win in Switzerland. Out of 17 events in the LET, she failed to finish in the top 20 only twice, and achieved 13 top 10 finishes, including seven top three places, three second places and the two previously mentioned wins. She topped off a great year by achieving third place in the Q-School LPGA and has already secured her place among the world’s elite for next season.
In her fifth event as a member of the LPGA, she won the JTBC Classic in March, defeating Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark in a playoff. She therefore became the youngest winner in the LPGA in the past six seasons. Her second win of the season came in late September at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where she defeated Danielle Kang again in a playoff.
Apart from that, she achieved 14 Top 10 finishes out of 24 tournaments this year and is in second place in the overall season standings with three tournaments left to play. She also currently holds first place in the battle for the title Rookie of the Year.
And as of 31 October, without having played a tournament in the previous week, she is also the new world number one, only the second player in the history of the elite world circuit to have done so in her rookie season in the LPGA.
“This really does mean a lot to my team, my family, my fans and myself. It’s an honour to have my name up there with the biggest names in the game,” said Thitikul.
“It really is a truly remarkable thing to make it to the top, but staying there will be much harder. I still have a lot to learn from the greatest legends on and off the course. I will continue to work hard for my team, my family, my fans and my country,” said the new world number one modestly, a player who was already knocking on the door of the majors this year after finishing in the TOP 10 every time in the last three.
Nelly Korda is ranked fourth in the latest edition of the Women’s World Rankings. Klára Spilková is still the best female Czech player, having moved up 9 places to 163rd. Sára Kousková, the overall winner of this year’s LETAS season, remained in 257th place. Kristýna Napoleaová (450th), Jana Melichová (452nd) and Tereza Melecká (500th), who succeeded Thitikul as the winner from Beroun, are also ranked in the top 500.