Patty Tavatanakit sets sights on second straight Olympics appearance

With only two months down in 2024, plenty of golf’s best have just barely gotten their seasons started. But Patty Tavatanakit is already off to the races.

After two straight worldwide wins, she’s leapt into an Olympics qualifying spot for Thailand and hopes the good play – and good results – from the beginning of the year will keep going throughout 2024.

The 24-year-old Tavatanakit, who finished tied for 23rd at the 2020 Tokyo Games in her Olympics debut, won on the Ladies European Tour in mid-February – her first global triumph since her Chevron Championship title in 2021. The following week she captured the Honda LPGA Thailand on the LPGA Tour, winning her home-country LPGA event by one shot.

“It was very emotional,” Tavatanakit said of her back-to-back wins. “Especially the first one was a long time coming. It was a very long time since my last one. And it just felt like hard work paid off.

“Last week in Thailand, it was very special because my (golf) journey kind of started there at that event. And to be able to participate as an amateur, now as a professional multiple times and being able to win in front of home crowds, in my home country, was just the cherry on top.”

Finding the winner’s circle two weeks in a row moved her to No. 27 in the world ranking and into the second Thai spot for Paris 2024 behind Atthaya Thitikul. Her LPGA victory meant a leap of 16 spots in the world ranking.

While representing Thailand again at this summer’s Olympics was a goal for Tavatanakit when the year began, it was both simple and difficult to get there. With the field filled out purely by a world-ranking list, she knew she’d have to play well in order to move up. And after a few years of struggles, that was going to be easier said than done.

Tavatanakit said after her breakthrough major triumph in 2021 (followed by winning the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award at season’s end), she felt like she hadn’t had any time to slow down or ease off the grind of professional golf. During this recent offseason, however, she took some time away from the game to reset herself – both physically and mentally.

“I had a plan,” Tavatanakit said. “And it was more like, when I took my time off, I’d write down what I wanted to do when I did get back to it. And as soon as I got home from my trip in December, I was just like, ‘Right on. OK. Let’s start doing these things that I wrote down.’”

With her plan in place and her objectives clear, Tavatanakit said the best she could do was focus on herself and her own process. She could come out of the gates strong but what if fellow countrywomen Chanettee Wannasaen or Ariya Jutanugarn got off to comparably hot starts? That hasn’t yet been the case, however, and Tavatanakit’s great play has seen her jump Wannasaen for the final qualifying spot for Thailand. Wannasaen is now 35th in the world rankings while Jutanugarn is 47th and will have some ground to make up through the springtime season.

Tavatanakit described being an Olympian for the first time as an “amazing experience,” and she relished the opportunity to mingle with the best athletes in the world in the Olympic Village. The experience was so meaningful that Tavatanakit said she’s considered getting the Olympic rings as a tattoo.

“Every athlete from every sport wants to represent their country during that week,” Tavatanakit said.

This week the LPGA Tour is in Singapore for the HSBC Women’s World Championship, where Tavatanakit admits she’ll be tired. But at the same time, she notes things have been going “easier” on the course for her than at any time in recent memory.

“The mindset going into this week is probably embrace the difficulties of the little things that’s coming along and just hold my head up high and just accept the challenge,” Tavatanakit said. “And also have fun. Like, I really want to have fun.”

It’s certainly easy to have fun when you’re playing as well as Tavatanakit has been to start 2024. The race to represent Thailand in Paris is going to be a tight one, but Tavatanakit has put herself in an excellent position to do exactly that.

“It would be great if I could experience that again this year,” she said. “Fingers crossed.”