Australian Whitney Hillier arrived in Pattaya on Monday, ready to compete in the inaugural Ladies European Thailand Championship, which will be played at Phoenix Gold Country Club from Thursday.
Hillier, who is half-Thai, is joined by her mother, Gai, who was born and raised in Bangkok.
“This week is absolutely massive for me. When I found out there was a tournament in Thailand, I had to come,” said the 26-year-old golfer from Perth, who speaks Thai and proclaimed that the country’s popular massaman curry is her favourite dish to eat and cook.
“It’s such an important place for me and my mum is from Thailand. I just feel right at home here. I love the country and I respect the culture. I’m wearing a black ribbon to mourn the late King and I have a couple of wrist bands that have been blessed by Buddhas as well. It’s a cool religion and the people here are so friendly.”
Hillier even has a Thai nickname, ‘Pook Pui’, named after two of her grandfather’s favourite Miss Universes. However, she is also half-English and has a strong connection with the United Kingdom as her boyfriend, Ben, who caddies for LET member Mel Reid, is the son of her Lincoln-based coach, Stuart Brewer.
“I’ve been working on my swing and putting with my coach in England before coming here,” said Hillier, who finished sixth at the Victorian Open earlier this year and is currently 28th on the LET Order of Merit. “My game feels good and I’ve just got to go and do the job now really.”
She feels that she could score well at Phoenix Gold Country Club this week. “It’s a typical Thai course with grainy greens and lush fairways and the rough is good too, so it’s a matter of placing the ball and making sure that you are in the right spots on the greens,” she added.
All 126 players in the field, from both the LET and Thai LPGA, will be looking forward to playing in the first Ladies European Thailand Championship, at one of the most stunning destinations on the 2017 LET schedule.
photos Janos Schmidt