Women Rev It Up in Thailand

Ai Miyazato

Golf was first played in Thailand in 1906, at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. When the Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin opened in 2009, it became the 260th course in a country roughly the size of France or slightly smaller than Texas. It’s hotter than either.

The LPGA added its glamour this week at its season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand tournament, with a full complement of its stars, including defending champion Ai Miyazato, the Rolex Rankings No. 1 player Yani Tseng–who emerged victorious–Michelle Wie (who finished second), Paula Creamer, Christie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis.

Tseng shot 6-under-par 66 on Sunday to win the Honda LPGA Thailand by five shots over Wie.  Tseng has now entered four events for the season and yes, won four times.

Miyazato, who finished in a tie for 13th, had little to show after the first round, with a three-over-par 75. But Tseng, with three straight wins under her belt, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, the oldest player in the field, were three strokes behind the leader, I.K. Kim. The 22-year-old Kim, from South Korea (but now living in San Diego), fired a bogey-free nine-under par 63, a course record.

The course is the Old Course at the Siam Country Club, old being relative, of course. The first privately-owned course in the country was built in 1971 to a design by Isao Mazumi, but re-designed over the same routing by the Schmidt-Curley Design team and reopened in 2007.

Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley (but mainly Schmidt) also did the club’s newer 27-hole Plantation Course. I was lucky enough to play both tracks in 2009, my first visit to the Kingdom of Thailand, and there are certainly similarities between the two: plenty of expansive bunkering, fecund landscaping–such as the ubiquitous elephant-shaped topiary that takes note of the country’s favored pachyderm–and excellent conditioning. (“The greens are awesome,” Paula Creamer tweeted after the first round.)

The Old Course is a relatively flat layout, with a number of up and back holes, but it does have a more comfortably antique, wooded feel to it with its abundant fruits trees and palms, and as one golfer noted, “More shade,” no mean consideration.

Twelfth hole at Siam Country Club

The Plantation Course, by contrast, opened for its first full season in 2008, and is a wide open and rollicking affair, with far more movement in the fairways and on the greens. If the Old Course is a slowly unfolding reverie, the Plantation is a modern drama with sudden loud scene changes, playing out over former pineapple and tapioca fields. For a visitor the usual solution prevails, naturally: play them both.

As for rollicking, the course is near Pattaya, which was nothing more than a fishing village on the Gulf of Thailand over forty years ago, when American military personnel engaged in the Vietnam War turned it into an R&R stop. This may well account for the continuing rambunctious nature of the city, best seen in all its vividness at night in the notorious Walking Street district, which makes Las Vegas look like a church social.

But the action on the course this week was thrilling enough for the top-three players at the end of the tournament, Tseng, Wie and Karrie Webb, who gained exemption into the season-ending Titleholders at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, November 17-20.

3 Responses to “Women Rev It Up in Thailand”

  1. Tom Bedell

    I.K. Kim maintained a one-stroke lead after the second round, with Michelle Wie and the red-hot Yani Tseng breathing down her neck. Kim shot a one-over 73, while Wie fired a 68 and Tseng a 71 to finish tied at seven-under.

    Juli Inkster shot a 73 to stay three off Kim’s pace, while Creamer, Gulbis and Kerr all made moves up the leader board. Round 2 on The Golf Channel now, closing two rounds at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

    Are they drinking Chang beer post-round? It’s not the same as the U.S. version, as I explained here: http://bit.ly/c0yG3k

  2. Tom Bedell

    Yani Tseng eagled the par-5 eighteenth hole in the third round to take the lead at 9-under. I.K. Kim needed two final birdies to shoot even-par and remain at 8-under, and Michelle Wie birdied the final two holes to join the hunt in second place.

    Tseng could be tough to stop. Now living in Orlando, the Taiwanese native is on a win streak that vaulted her to the number one spot in the Rolex Rankings. But there are other contenders just a few shots back: Paula Creamer alone in fourth and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb in fifth. Juli Inkster began the day with early birdies, but faded to a 74 and a tie for seventh, five strokes back.

    Defending champ Ai Miyazato made the cut, but is ten shots off the pace. She was six shots off the lead going into the final round last year, a position 14 players are in heading to this Sunday’s final round, including Stacy Lewis, Natalie Gulbis and Suzann Pettersen.

  3. Tom Bedell

    “She played like a rock star out there,” Michelle Wie said of Yani Tseng, who outpaced the field on Sunday with the low round of the day, 66, capturing the season-opener by five shots over runner-up Wie. The pair played together in the final group.

    Ahead of them were Paula Creamer and I.K. Kim, both firing 1-under rounds of 71 to finish fifth and T3, respectively. But Kim, the leader after the first two rounds, was in contention until disaster struck on the 71st hole, and she carded a quintuple bogey 9.

    Kim’s miscues on the seventeenth hole were compounded with Karrie Webb’s 69, giving her the other T3 spot. But since Webb shot the lower final round, she joins Tseng and Wie in securing spots in the season-ending Titleholders event at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando.

    Tseng’s win is her fourth in her last four events (her sixth career LPGA Tour victory). Right now she’s looking as unbeatable as Annika and Tiger in their primes, and it should be interesting, to say the least, to see how the rest of her season unfolds.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)