As a younger lady rising up in Thailand, Patty Tavatanakit by no means had a lot time for golf.
“My dad used to drag me along but I wasn’t really into it,” she recollects of her early years trailing behind her father at his Bangkok membership. “I didn’t see the appeal.” It was solely when, by probability, Tavatanakit occurred to watch Tiger Woods win an occasion on tv sooner or later that she sat up and took discover.
More than their shared ethnicity — Woods’ mom Kutilda hails from Kanchanaburi in western Thailand and the 45-12 months-outdated 15-time main winner was and stays a celebrity in the nation — it was the buzz surrounding him. “Just holding the trophy, the way he carried himself, people going crazy about the whole thing,” she says. “It looked fun to an eight-year-old girl. I was like ‘Oh my God, that looks so cool! I want to be like him one day.’ The next semester at school I started playing golf. It really changed my life.”
Thirteen years later, Tavatanakit is one of the hottest prospects in the ladies’s sport. The 21-12 months-outdated gained the first main of the season — and her first occasion on the LPGA — the ANA Inspiration, again in April. Today, she tees it up at the second, the US Women’s Open, at The Olympic Club, San Francisco.
Tavatanakit will be amongst the favourites. The UCLA graduate didn’t simply win the ANA Inspiration, she overwhelmed Mission Hills Country Club in a trend her idol would have been proud of again when he was a rookie 1 / 4 of a century in the past. With a mean driving distance of 323 yards over the 4 rounds, the 21-12 months-outdated supplied ample proof that the energy hitting that so polarises the males’s sport is alive and nicely on the LPGA tour as nicely.
Tavatanakit, who stands simply 5ft5in, is one of the new breed. She is paired with two extra bombers in the present day in Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson and he or she is unapologetic about the affect they’re having.
“I think it’s great,” she says. “We’re all trying to get better. It’s making women’s golf better than ever. You know what, the funny thing was before I turned pro, I told my UCLA coaches ‘I’m going to make a difference out there. Like, I don’t know how exactly. But I’m going to do it.’ And I already feel like I am, you know, making that impact. We’re like, ‘Hey, we can play this way too! Like, we can overpower the course. We can have all the elements [ the men’s game has].”
Tavatanakit’s speech is peppered with ‘likes’ and ‘you knows’, the outcome of dwelling in California since the age of 17. Tavatanakit really used to go to a British faculty in Bangkok, however switched to an American one “because I was scared of doing GCSEs and A-Levels”. She says she felt immediately at house in California, having first visited at the age of 10 for the junior world championships in San Diego. She credit her time at UCLA with turning her into the girl she is in the present day.
“I don’t mean this in a bad way but I kind of feel I grew up in the wrong country,” she says. “I’ve got a big personality. I had a really hot temper when I was younger. And it just doesn’t really fit well with the Thai culture – just how everything is really structured, conservative.
“Every summer, I would come here and I’d never want to go back. The more I came here, the more I felt I could express myself. And then coming to college, with the diversity that UCLA has, was like that last piece of the puzzle.”
Tavatanakit does credit score her Thai upbringing with serving to her psychological energy although. Although not a practising buddhist herself, she says the ‘zen’ side is one thing on which she has drawn. She meditated twice earlier than her ultimate spherical at ANA Inspiration.
“It’s something my parents had me do since I was young. And I never really liked it back then. Just because, you know, like, as a kid, you don’t want to be sitting there, closed eyes, for hours on end. But the older I get the more I can relate to it. I feel like my parents ingrained that part pretty good.”
Can she overwhelm the course this week? “I don’t know. We’ll see. Having that distance as a weapon, like you said, it’s an advantage… but you’ve got to use it wisely.”