By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
Ariya and former world No 1s Sung Hyun Park of South Korea and So Yeon Ryu will be the top three-ranked players at the country’s biggest golf event, which will be played from February 21 to 24. Once again, an extra incentive for the players will be a Bt1.2 million Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo RS for the first player to hit a hole-in-one on the 16th hole.
World No 5 and 2016 champion Lexi Thompson of the US, No 6 Minjee Lee of Australia, Nasa Hataoka of Japan, No 8 Georgia Hall of England, No 9 Brooke Hendersen of Canada and No 10 Lydia Ko of New Zealand are also confirmed for the 13th staging of the event – world No 4 and 2013 winner Inbee Park of South Korea is the only top-10 player to skip it this year.
A total of eight Thais will be lining up: Ariya, her older sister and last year’s runner-up Moriya, 2018 British Open runner-up Pornanong Phatlum, one-time LPGA winner Thidapa Suwannapura, teenage prodigy Atthaya Thitikul, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras and Benyapa Niphatsophon, the winner of the Honda LPGA Thailand National Qualifiers. All will be striving to become the first local player to hold the trophy.
The event will feature 70 female golfers, including 57 professionals from the 2019 LPGA Priority List, three winners from the 2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open and the 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, the winner of 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and nine invited players.
Among the invitees is Chinese “cover girl” Munie He, who last year attracted widespread attention - from media and fans. The 19-year-old is now an LPGA Tour card-holder after finishing 21st on the Symetra Tour Money List in 2018, highlighted by a victory in Ohio last July.
The Honda LPGA Thailand 2019 will be held under the theme of “Dream Big” to inspire golfers from all backgrounds and skill levels to pursue their dreams on the global stage. A Junior Golf Clinic will also be held on 18 February with the aim of encouraging the growth of the sport in Thailand and especially facilitating the development of young talent.
Additionally, a Golf Leaders Conference will be held on 21 February to encourage people in the sport to exchange knowledge on sustainable golf development in Thailand. Among the guest speakers will be former world No 2 and 2010 U.S Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer.
There will be a Charity Night, when donations will be sought for the Siriraj Hospital Foundation and to raise money for local schools, while spectators will also be given the chance to compete with professional golfers in “Beat The Pro”, as well as a Kids Zone and Chill Zone for children and families.