April 11, 2022

The record for the youngest winner of an OWGR event no longer belongs to the developmental MENA Tour

By Kent Gray
Josh Hill’s entry in the Guinness World Records, and the reflected glory for the MENA Tour, has been sensationally eclipsed by Ratchanon Chantananuwat and the Thai teen’s brilliant Asian Tour breakthrough.

Chantananuwat capped a ridiculous rise to global boy wonder status by capturing the $750,000 Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup – a new event co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour - at the age of 15 years, 37 days at Siam Country Club in Thailand on Sunday.

He became the youngest winner of an Asian Tour, main male tour and Official World Record Ranking (OWGR) event courtesy of an outwardly nerveless closing 65 on Siam’s Waterside course to win by two strokes from 19-year-old Korean Joohyung Kim.

Hill previously held the record as the youngest winner of an OWGR event when he captured the MENA Tour’s Al Ain Open in October, 2019. The Dubai-born England amateur, now 17, was 15 years, 6 months and 26 days old at the time.

Hill eclipsed Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa for the world record and did it in style too, becoming the fourth amateur winner of a MENA Tour title with a closing 62 at Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club on October 23, 2019. Ishikawa was 15 years and eight months old when he won the Japan Golf Tour’s Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in May 2007.

For the record, Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai holds the record as the youngest winner of a professional event. He was 14 years, two months, 22 days old when he won the Singhua Hin Open in July 2013 but the ASEAN PGA Tour event did not have OWGR status like the MENA Tour. 

The previous Asian Tour mark was set by Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungil who claimed the 2005 Double A International Open aged 17 years and five days.

“I am very excited, but I felt a lot of pressure,” said Chantananuwat afterwards.

“I have got to be honest, I got pretty lucky, I had hit two or three terrible drives [down the stretch]. I saw that [Kim eagled 18] and was not surprised, he pulls off that stuff all the time. It put pressure on me but I tried not to look at it too much. I definitely have a lot of people to thank.”

Chantananuwat has sensationally made the cut in every one of his seven starts on the Asian Tour thus far, rattling off T-15, T-30, solo 3rd, T-34, 71st, T11 and 1st placings.

He held the lead with nine holes of January’s Singapore International to play and made the cut at the $5 million Saudi International on the number on his 15th birthday before finishing an astonishing T-11 in a star-studded field that will likely only be beaten in terms of world ranking status by the major championships and The Players this year. Indeed, TK, as Chantananuwat is nicknamed, would have won an estimated US$261,970 but for his amateur status, including Sunday’s $135,000 winner’s cheque which was awarded instead to Kim.

Chantananuwat's $169,237 in earnings from three starts this season would place him third in the current order of merit standings, behind American Sihwan Kim and Khongwatmai. Instead, Kim holds third place. 

“Let’s face it, TK deserves this," said Kim. “There is no stopping him."

Still, Chantananuwat insists he has no plans to turn professional despite his giddy Asian Tour run. He will instead complete his studies at Shrewsbury International School Bangkok before following the well-trodden collegiate route in the US. He’s previously mentioned prestigious Stanford University as a dream destination and you figure after Sunday that gaining a scholarship, endorsements and starts in many big pro events in the meantime won’t be an issue.

 “This has been my plan all along,” said Chantananuwat who gave a polite “no” when asked whether Sunday’s win would change his plans to remain an amateur. “I enjoy going to college and learning everything. I have talked to a lot of players, and they have all said go to college.”

A lot of players on the Asian Tour will indeed feel much more fiscally assured should Chantananuwat retain his amateur status for a few years yet.

Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.