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Honda LPGA Thailand

How a pep talk from dad propelled rising talent Lilia Vu to her first career LPGA win in impressive fashion

February 26, 2023
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Lilia Vu talks to the press moments after winning the 2023 Honda LPGA Thailand, her first career LPGA title.

Thananuwat Srirasant

Lilia Vu’s father told her Saturday night that one good round could let her win her first LPGA Tour title at the Honda LPGA Thailand. The optimism was impressive considering Vu sat six strokes behind leader Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, a 20-year-old LPGA rookie who looked more like a 20-year veteran the first three days of the tournament.

Yet Vu, 25, proved her dad’s parental intuition correct when she posted a bogey-free Sunday 64 to pass Vongtaveelap at Siam Country Club and claim the title with a 22-under 266 total.

“That's all I kept thinking about,” Vu said of her father’s advice. “And today I basically just blacked out and tried to birdie every single hole. If I didn't, just move on and try again.”

In putting together the second-lowest round of her nascent LPGA career, Vu began surging up the leaderboard on the eighth hole. The former World No. 1 amateur posted the first of five straight birdies, catching Vongtaveelap on the 10th and separating from the Thai native on the 12th. The leap was something Vu wasn’t aware of, however; in one of her off-season adjustments, she decided not to look at leaderboards during the day and instead focus on her game as she made her 2023 season debut.

It kept Vu from watching Vongtaveelap’s colorful scorecard. The latest Thai to thrive in her homeland’s event, following the footsteps of close friend Atthaya Thitikul in 2021, Vongtaveelap posted just two pars over the first 14 holes on her way to a one-under 71. In a resilient but inconsistent effort, the rookie making her first career start in an LPGA event after earning her card in December’s Q Series made a birdie after a bogey or worse four times Sunday. The problem of course was the numerous stumbles (four bogeys and a double), something she had shown none of over the opening three rounds. Still, on the 17th, Vongtaveelap walked in her six-foot par putt to march to the last one back of Vu.

The American who had made eight birdies on the day stood in the fairway on the par-5 18th in the reverse role she had at the Saudi Ladies International the previous week, where she was one back of eventual winner Lydia Ko. With a one-stroke lead this time, Vu laid up instead of going for the undulated green in two. Her wedge then went just over the back of the putting surface. The three-time Epson Tour winner calmly two-putted from the fringe for par.

Now Vongtaveelap had the chance to make up for her earlier mistakes. She entered the tournament with plenty of momentum, having won her three previous starts on the Thai tour in 2023, performances that earned her a sponsor’s invitational into this limited-field event. Vongtaveelap got to the 18th green in two to set up a birdie opportunity inside 10 feet to get to extra holes with Vu, but failed to convert the putt to force a playoff.

"It was a good week," Vongtaveelap said despite the Sunday disappointment. "I’ve gained a lot of experience."

The American's victory is the eighth by a first-time winner on the LPGA over the last 16 tournaments.

Thitikul could only watch her friend on the last. She finished in third at 20 under par, her third straight top-10 in her home country’s event. She's a combined 61 under par at the Honda LPGA Thailand over the last three years. Despite her consistent success at Siam Country Club, she is yet to walk away with a win.

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Natthakritta Vongtaveelap (right) had the support of fellow Thai native Atthaya Thitikul as she claimed a runner-up finish in her first career LPGA start.

Thananuwat Srirasant

“[I] learn a lot from this week,” Thitikul said, “since I was an amateur. And also, we live and we learn. I think I had a really good day today as well.”

The win puts Vu closer to one of her biggest dreams: playing for Team USA at the Solheim Cup. Earlier in the week, U.S. captain Stacy Lewis handed Vu a book with a note congratulating her on her play at the Saudi Ladies International. Sunday, the captain celebrated the victory with Vu, who now sits in third place in Team USA Solheim points, passing winners Andrea Lee, Jennifer Kupcho, and Danielle Kang. The top seven are guaranteed spots on the roster at Spain’s Finca Cortesin in September.

“It would be a great honor,” Vu said, “to represent the United States of America [at Solheim]."

And she’ll do so as a proud LPGA champion.