Thai teen Eila makes her mark
Star captures WAAP title with solid round
published : 13 Mar 2023 at 04:39
newspaper section: Sports
Singapore: Thailand's Eila Galitsky won the fifth Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) Championship in commanding fashion on Sunday, becoming the second player from her country to triumph in the region's pre-eminent amateur championship.
Eila, who holds dual nationality of Thailand and Canada, shot a four-under-par 68 in the final round at the Singapore Island Country Club, giving her a four-day aggregate of 14-under 274 and a five-shot win over South Korea's Kim Min-Sol (70).
The 16-year-old from Chiang Mai follows in the footsteps of Atthaya Thitikul, who won the inaugural WAAP championship in 2018 in Singapore and rose to No.1 in the world rankings last year.
Eila, 193rd in the world amateur rankings coming into the week, closed with three birdies in her last four holes. The result was never in doubt as she remained rock-solid throughout the day.
She made the turn at one-under-par with a birdie on the sixth hole. Her only dropped shot came when she shockingly missed a one-footer par putt on the 14th hole, but then bounced back in incredible fashion with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes.
Kim, ranked No.14 in the world, was bidding to become the first player from South Korea to win the WAAP title. However, despite giving herself several birdie opportunities, her putter remained stone cold.
As the 2023 WAAP champion, Eila earns dream starts in three major championships -- the Women's British Open, the Evian Championship and the Chevron Championship -- as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship, Australian Open, the 120th Women's Amateur Championship and an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women's Amateur (ANWA) later this month.
South Korea's Park Ye-Ji (70), Japan's Yuna Araki (72), the second-highest ranked player in the championship at No.5, New Zealand's Fiona Xu (71) and Sophie Han (71) of Hong Kong, China, were tied for the third place at six-under 282.
Eila was imperious throughout the championship, but her crowning moment was truly the 18th hole, where she smashed a 375-yard drive down the fairway slope and needed only a 7-iron second shot into the par-5 hole, which left her a comfortable two-putt for birdie.
The Thai star was ahead by four going into the back nine of the championship on Sunday. And it would have taken some massive blunder to deny her the ultimate honour, considering that she was six under for the back nine in her previous three rounds.
"I never thought about winning until I made that first putt on the 18th hole. I was very nervous going into the final round. I did not sleep well and woke up at 4.30am," said Eila, who revealed a text message from compatriot Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, who finished runner-up the last two years and is now playing on the LPGA Tour, helped her relax and be better prepared for the final round.
"I did not expect this to happen at the beginning of the week. I played my first practice round here and lost five balls that day. At that point, I was thinking making the cut would be a good result."
Taiwan's Huang Ting-hsuan (70), winner of the championship last year, finished in solo ninth place in her title defence.
Liu Yujie, the 12-year-old from China who was the youngest participant in the championship, closed with a 76 to finish in tied 32nd place at six-over total.