TK follows Tiger's tracks

Ratchanon Chantananuwat, aged five, swings like a professional

At first glance, Ratchanon "TK" Chantananuwat is like any other ordinary five-year-old kid _ hyperactive and talkative.

Once on the golf course, his innate talent with the club becomes obvious as he swings and putts with the flair of a professional.

TK, as he likes to be called, began to show promise as a budding golfer at age three, says his father Tara, who also coaches him and was the first to take him to a golf course as a toddler.

As an avid golfer himself, Tara was only happy to oblige when his only son showed an interest in following his footsteps. Little did he know this would lead to TK's desire to play golf competitively.

With the number of hours spent together concentrating on golf, it is obvious that the father/son duo are extremely close. And while TK is headstrong and opinionated like any child his age, when it comes to golf he comes across as a professional. When he is displeased with the way he executes a shot, he readily reminds his father to make him practise more intensively to further hone his skills.

The little talent has taken to golf as a fish would to water and it seems he hardly gets bored practising. Nevertheless, being a kid, he has both his good and bad days.

The budding golf talent began competing seriously a year ago, and has so far participated in about 20 tournaments. His best achievements have been two holes-in-one _ once at the Watermill Golf and Gardens course and the other at the Bang Plee Par 3 Golf Course.

The proudest moment for the Chantananuwat family came when TK clinched ninth place in a field of 43 competitors at the Callaway World Junior Golf Championships in San Diego, California, in July.

He was the youngest competitor in the "boys under six"category. TK completed his round with a score of 184, and ranked third in the most number of birdies and par-breakers achieved. This performance has enabled him to reserve a spot in next year's tournament.

"My golf idol is Tiger Woods," said TK with a grin. "In fact, there are many golf players I look up to, but when they win, I like them even more. Tiger is my favourite because he is one of the most successful and I want to follow in his footsteps.

"I am close to my father. When I am not playing golf, I love to play badminton with him. However, I hardly have any time nowadays to do anything but concentrate on golf. Being around my father makes playing golf more fun."

TK is currently studying at Shrewsbury International School. While he devotes a large chunk of his leisure time to golf, he hasn't let his education suffer. While Tara drives him to practise, TK usually does his homework in the car.

A dedicated father, Tara has done everything in his power to encourage the golfing success of his young son. For starters, he has devoted much of his time and money towards TK's coaching.

"If TK doesn't have any tournament on Sundays, I usually take him to the mall in the evenings. And on days I can't make it, he might get upset, but I try my best to keep my promise," Tara said.

"When tournaments he competes in are held in [another] province, we often sleep at the accommodation on the golf course, so we can concentrate fully on practising golf.

"I often ask TK if he is really interested in pursuing golf, because if he's not, I don't want to force him. He seems like he's still enjoying the game. There's still a lot TK is learning about competitive sports, especially at times when he doesn't win. He is learning that in sports one has to learn to lose as well," he added.

Tara says practise makes perfect. TK's training _ which can last between three and five hours each day _ begins right after school. In the beginning, a lot of hard work went into his training.

For one, the little man practiced explosion shots 100 times in a day. In the beginning, he didn't concentrate on his golf lessons because he was still very young and wanted to play and be naughty like other kids his age, said Tara.

To train TK to be more responsible, his father saw to it that he complete the allotted number of shots each day.

For additional golfing know-how, Tara sends his son to the Wilding Golf Performance Center.

"Talented children becoming successful doesn't always hinge on the parents' financial status or taking a golf course at the best golf schools," said Tara.

"[It] rather depends on progressive training of the child and his passion for the sport.

"To enjoy the success TK has reached today, I have worked with him throughout the year. Before a tournament, I always practise on that particular golf course to get him accustomed to it.

"I believe to reach a goal in life one has to work doubly hard to succeed."

About the author

Writer: Paisit Sukhtipyaroge