Watch out for Tavatanakit

New Thai Star Tavatanakit on a Winning Streak

That’s the way it goes. One star comes out of a new golf country, and then her sister does the same thing. Before we know it, the floodgates open on a generation of new stars from that country. The Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya probably played a big part in the arrival of the new wave from Thailand, one that is apparently led by 20-year old Patty Tavatanakit.

Tavatanakit’s first name is actually Paphangkorn, but she might have gotten tired of having to correct the pronunciation of American golfers, and just went for “Patty.” Just a few short years ago, she graduated from Keerapat High School in her hometown of Bangkok. That’s fine, but the school didn’t have a golf team, and Patty was interested in other sports as well. Of course, if your idol is Ariya Jutanugarn, and you intend to play golf just like her, a passionate person will always find a way.

Suddenly, there was Tavatanakit playing on the golf team at UCLA. Since that school if one of my alma maters, I can guess at what Patty liked about it. The weather is moderate, with a long golfing year. The leaves don’t start falling until November, and start growing a couple of months later. The school sits four miles from the ocean with a quality golf course at every bend in the road, It’s a  a good competitive collegiate experience. Of course, Tavatanakit didn’t do it the easy way, ending up in the Psychology Department. Arriving with good credentials already, only the second Thai golfer (Ariya, of course, was the first) to receive the Rolex Junior Player of the Year, she won seven times in two seasons.

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Then she left college, the way a lot of pro athletes do, except usually only skipping the senior year.  It was time to get out there and play some tour golf. Tavatanakit came in as the low amateur at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open. More importantly, she finished 5th on her first try, so why not go for it, even if your nickname among your colleagues is “meow?” Isn’t youth fun? We don’t have to get it – it’s just fun.

Now that Patty Tavatanakit is out fighting for her share of the goodies on the Symetra Tour, things are a lot more serious than the old days. Lose a college golf tournament and you can still afford to stay there. The early years of tour playing can be downright scary in the financial sense. Patty doesn’t seem worried. She has just won the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in a sudden-death playoff after  starting the final day six back, and coming in with an eight under 62.

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Winning one’s first tournament in the rookie year is something special, but the thing about Tavatanakit is that she has won three of her last eight starts. In July at Thornberry, she was on a “59” watch, causing the Golf Channel to break in and cover her finish. Her final round was a 61, including three eagles in one nine. Annika Sorenstam remains the only sanctioned 59 in the LPGA annals. Still, it was a course record.  And about those three eagles – Patty said that she was “kind of in the zone.” Let’s unpack that – “kind of?” In addition to the three wins, she was a runner-up at the Prasco CharityChampionship, and is in the race for the tour’s top money winner.

It was once the case that three wins in the rookie season would get you a card to the LPGA, but things have changed. Four more events remain on the Symetra schedule, and the top 10 will still get that card. It seems reasonable to expect that Tavatanakit will be one of them. That should be fun for everyone in another year.,


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