The Rookie from UCLA won her first major last weekend.
The 50th ANA Inspiration boasted an unexpected victor this past weekend, when Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit captured her first LPGA title. The 21-year-old is a rookie on the LPGA Tour. This victory makes her the first rookie to win the event since Juli Inkster in 1984. Tavatanakit turned pro in 2019 after becoming a two-time All-American at UCLA, but the 2020 season was shortened due to COVID-19. The victory was even more surprising considering that Tavatanakit missed the cut at the Kia Classic just a week earlier.
Tavatanakit shot 6-under 66 in the first round of the tournament to take the early lead, and she never looked back. Entering the second round the rookie held a lead for the first time in her career, and she was able to maintain her position with a score of -9. Her lead was slim though, as she entered the third round ahead by only one stroke.
It was in the third round that Tavatanakit separated herself from the pack. She shot a 5-under 67 to reach 14-under 202. Tavatanakit matched the 54-hole tournament record set by Pernilla Lindberg in 2018. Suddenly a one shot lead became a five shot lead as she entered the final round. Right behind Tavatanakit on the leaderboard were many other major winners like Inbee Park, Jin Young Ko, and Lydia Ko.
Tavatanakit said she ignored the leaderboard in the final round in an attempt to focus on her own game. That method probably worked in her favor because there was no way for her to notice that Lydia Ko was shooting one of the greatest rounds in the history of the LPGA.
Ko began the final round tied for seventh place, eight strokes behind Tavatanakit. Ko’s 10-under 62 round matched the 18-hole major championship scoring record set by Lorena Ochoa in 2006. Ko was a golfing prodigy, and in 2015 she became the youngest world number one in the history of golf at the age of 17. Despite all her accolades, Ko was looking for her first win since April of 2018, but Tavatanakit’s lead proved insurmountable.
Tavatanakit nearly set a new record in her final round as well. She shot a bogey-free round to finish 18 under, only one stroke off of the 72-hole mark record of 19 under set in 1999. Not bad for a golfer who entered the tournament ranked 103rd in the world.