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Bangkok rookie, known as ‘Sim 300’ for her power off the tee, leads early at 2023 Honda LPGA Thailand

A trio of Thai players are in the top 10 of the Honda LPGA Thailand, including a rookie who leads the field at 12 under.

Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, 20, got into the field after winning a national qualifier for the event earlier this year. She’s competing on a sponsor exemption and making the most of her experience, carding a second-round 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Maja Stark. Vongtaveelap carded six birdies on her back nine.

“This is my first time, you know,” she said of her Honda debut. “It’s my largest crowd in my life.”

Bangkok’s Vongtaveelap turned professional last November after advancing through the first two stages of LPGA Q-School. She earned LPGA membership for 2023 after finishing in a tie for 28th at LPGA Q-Series. Vongtaveelap goes by “Sim” and is known as “Sim 300” for her distance off the tee.

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Duke grad Jaravee Boonchant, another LPGA rookie, sits in a share of third while LPGA veteran Pornanong Phatlum holds a share of eighth, three back.

Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, last year’s LPGA Rookie of the Year, trails by four at T-15. 2022 U.S Women’s Amateur champion Saki Baba, who is also competing on a sponsor exemption, is tied for 20th at 7 under.

Natthakritta Vongtaveelap of Thailand smiles before tee off at 18th hole during the second round of the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on February 24, 2023 in Chon Buri. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

Stark, who holed out twice for eagle in the opening round, has won seven times worldwide since she left Oklahoma State early to turn professional in the summer of 2021. Her victory at the ISPS Handa World Invitational last summer earned her an LPGA card. She currently tops the LET’s Solheim Cup points list.

“I’ve been trying to get better at handling nerves, but I feel like I’m going to have nerves the whole weekend, so I’m just going to keep playing aggressively anyway. Just keep putting my foot on the pedal and try to go low. Not compare myself to other people. Just try to make as many birdies as I can do because can’t affect the way they’re playing.”

Nelly Korda of United States looks on putting green at 18th hole during the second round of the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on February 24, 2023 in Chon Buri. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

Second-ranked Korda’s 66 was highlighted by a chip-in for eagle on the par-5 10th hole. Korda, whose sister Jessica won this event in 2018, said she was in between clubs on her second shot and opted to hit 3-wood off the downhill slope. She’d actually practiced the chip shot that followed earlier in the week.

“It was a tricky shot,” said Korda. “It was an undulated green kind of with not much room to work with, a little downhill left-to-righter, and then coming back left and I just landed it perfectly.”

World No. 1 Lydia Ko won last week in Saudi Arabia and trails by four after back-to-back 68s.



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