THAILAND’S NEW RISING GOLF STAR
by Steve Wade
Ratchanon Chantananuwat, who goes by the nickname of “TK”, is the youngest golfer ever recorded to have won an event officially recognised by the Official World Golf Ranking. His name went into the record books on the 10th of April 2022 when he won the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup at the age of 15 years and 37 days, a quite phenomenal achievement.
Whilst Thai women’s golf is being spearheaded by the new world number one Atthaya Thitikul and four other players ranked inside the top 100 in the world, the mens scene has suffered recently, with Jazz Janewattananond struggling to find winning form on both major professional tours and Kiradech Aphibarnrat struggling with his game altogether. With another young Thai player, Phachara Khongwatmai having joined LIV Golf, only Sadom Kaewkanjana, who plays on the Asian Tour and has won twice there, scrapes into the world top 100 at the moment.
Of course the wonderful Thongthai Jaidee, Thailand’s greatest ever male golfer and the winner of multiple titles both in Asia and Europe on the main tours, continues on his merry way on the seniors tour. He is currently ranked 9th in the world for the over 50’s and has already won over 1.3 million dollars in the 19 events he has contested, including a win at the American family Insurance Championship in June of this year. In spite of his own schedule, “TJ” has found time to mentor the young prodigy since first seeing him play in 2019. When Ratchanon wanted to learn a certain shot that TJ was an expert at, he spent the next three weeks teaching the teenager exactly how to execute it. “He’s been helping me with my game for a while now. I think he really enjoys helping young Thai players for the future of the game” says the youngster.
While you would hope for a return to form from both Jazz and Kiradech in the future, TK is the great new hope of the Thailand golf scene. Still only 15, he has won on the amateur tour and is currently 14th in the World Amateur rankings. His record for someone of such a young age is undeniably impressive, but it is his demeanour on the course and his range of shots that really take the eye. He does let his emotions run away with him on the course occasionally, but that is only to be expected at his age and his temperament is generally excellent.
He was first introduced to the game at the age of three by his father, who still coaches and caddies for him now. He is currently at school in the US and seems determined to finish his education, including college, before he turns professional, although he is considering doing both at the same time. As in all sports, the age of the top performers in golf is getting younger and burnout is always a danger. Let’s hope that Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat doesn’t fall into that trap and goes on to lead Thai men’s golf into a winning future.