The teenage local hero believes preparation, rather than the world ranking, will determine who wins the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
This may come as a surprise to those who have only known Ratchnanon Chantananuwat through his golf, but the Thai teenage sensation does behave his age when outside the ropes.
Popularly known as TK, the local hero became the youngest player in the history to win a recognised men’s professional golf tournament (Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup on the Asian Tour) at the age of 15 years and 37 days. His win, remarkably, came on the same day when Scottie Scheffler slipped into the Green Jacket at The Masters this year.
Six months later, the Bangkok high schooler has a very real chance of securing his own trip to Augusta National Golf Club. The champion this week gets invited to the 2023 Masters and the 151stOpen Championship. With no one in the field better than his 12th place in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), TK is statistically the odds-on favourite.
Golf fans in Thailand – and in other parts of Asia – have been gobsmacked by his immense talent and the maturity he shows on the golf course. But the fact that he is just a teenager, show up every now and then.
Education Comes First for TK
Like, when he needed to skip Tuesday’s practise round at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in Chonburi, Thailand, because…he had an economics exam.
Like, how his is the most different and modern way of looking at the incredible prizes up for grabs this week for the champion. An avid gamer, TK’s take on the opportunity to play in the two majors, was: “It’s like a cheat code. You can either play through hundreds of levels and get to the ultimate prize, or you win the AAC and don’t have to wait for your chance to play years and years on the Tour before you fulfil your dreams of playing The Masters and The Open.”
The recent exams have not come as a deterrent for the Shrewsbury International School Class X student. Not only is he good in golf, he is also good in academics. More importantly, he had planned it all in advance and made sure he played at least half a dozen rounds at Amata Springs Country Club before start of the week.
Challenging Week at Amata
“It’s my first AAC and I am so definitely looking forward to it,” said TK, who is also 340th in the Official World Golf Ranking for professionals and would become the first Thai winner of the tournament.
“It’s been on my mind for months ever since last year. I was supposed to go to Dubai, but I could not as I didn’t get my vaccines in time.
“I know how hard the field strength is. There are so many good international players and there are so many good Thai players. It’s going to be tough, but I think it could really help jumpstart my career. The exposure that I will get will be just amazing.”
Chantananuwat said he did not mind if he was considered the pre-tournament favourite, but it is the presence of his friends, family and fans that might unnerve him a bit.
“I’m not saying that I have the best chance, but I am the highest ranked player, it is almost my home course, and I think I will have more fans rooting for me than anyone else. That really is cool with me. I try to embrace that,” said TK.
“It’s a good thing, but also, it obviously adds pressure. I’m going to try hard not to think about it. Just because I’m the highest-ranked player doesn’t mean that I have the highest chance to win. However, my chances do improve if I am the most prepared player in the field, and I have tried to do that.”
Chantananuwat’s best finish before his win was at the Singapore International on the Asian Tour in January this year, where he finished second to the red-hot Joohyung ‘Tom’ Kim of Korea, who has recently won twice on the PGA Tour and has reached No. 15 in the world ranking. TK later turned the table at the Asian Mixed Open, where he beat Kim by two shots.
Chantananuwat would often practise with Kim while on the Asian Tour together.
When asked how a practise round with Tom would sound if he wins the AAC, TK was quick to quip: “If I am in the Masters, I don’t mind having a practise round with anyone in the field. I will just be happy to be at Augusta National.
“But I am so happy for Tom Kim. His success has shown me again and again is what is possible, so I say thank you to him. I want to follow in his footsteps. He is the one person my dad always names as an example. Both me and my dad have the utmost respect for how hard Tom practices. He has made me believe that the secret to success is practice.”
Chantananuwat tees off at 11:39 local time from tee No1 with Australia’s Hayden Hopewell and Japan’s Leo Oyo.
by Joy Chakravarty