As the youngest ever male winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event, Ratchanon Chantananuwat has got the golf world at his feet – and he’s just 15 years of age.
The Asian Tour sensation could have been raking big bucks at the LIV Golf Invitational at Centurion this week, but the meteoric rise of TK – as he is also known – will not see him chasing dollar bills just yet.
For he is resisting the lures of the professional game to tick off his “bucket list” of big amateur events, and that starts next week at the Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
“Another main reason I am not turning pro is because I want to play the major amateur events – Amateur Championship, US Amateur and Asia Pacific – it’s like a bucket list of things I want to tick off,” said the Thai teenager, who shot to fame when a final-round 65 secured a two-shot win the Trust Golf Mixed Asian Cup in April.
“I’m fortunate to have a lot of good people behind me, and they’re really sensible. Other than probably fans, I’m not getting as much pressure and the people I talk to are just helping me make the right decision.”
TK played his first tournament in Europe when the Asian Tour’s International Series England arrived at Slaley Hall earlier in the month – having experienced English conditions for the first time in a practice round at St Annes Old Links, which hosts the stroke play rounds of the R&A’s flagship amateur tournament alongside Lytham.
“I played on Sunday before coming to Newcastle,” he explained. “I landed in Manchester, drove to Blackpool, and played St Annes Old Links.
“It was the most fun practice round I have ever had in my life. It was so interesting – the infinite possibilities on how I could hit my shots and the chips.
“Just playing that has opened up a new realm of golf because, in Asia, everywhere is so humid and wet. When you walk up to the chip, the first thing you see is, ‘Where can I land this on the green? How do I get it to stop?’
“But on links it’s totally different. You’re thinking, ‘I could use a pitching wedge. I could use a different wedge. I could even putt.’ It’s definitely very interesting.”
TK has admitted the English conditions have been something of a culture shock, particularly the poa greens at Slaley Hall where he finished in a tie for 36th at 2-over par.
And springtime conditions at St Annes Old Links also proved an eye-opener for the youngster.
“I’ve never really been in conditions this cold and my hands were freezing on the 1st tee,” he explained.
“There were actually about 20 people watching because I’d asked to play through. I hit a good drive, hit a good second shot, but instantly everything was really different. It was straight into the wind. I almost had to thin my driver!”
The world’s ninth ranked male amateur is expected to have a big impact in the professional ranks wherever he plays in future years, following an expected scholarship at an American university.
But with the Asian Tour assisted by significant funding by the Saudi Arabian arm behind LIV Golf, it may be to the game’s newest venture where he eventually gravitates.
Ahead of the inaugural event at Centurion, TK said: “I’m just excited to play and, obviously, didn’t expect Dustin Johnson to be there.”
Ratchanon Chantananuwat was speaking at the Asian Tour’s International Series England event at Slaley Hall, in Northumberland.
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