Rookie Patty Tavatankit looks to claim first LPGA title with a PGA Tour winner on the bag
ORLANDO, Florida – Patty Tavatanakit's biggest weapon on Sunday at the Gainbridge LPGA might be the man carrying her bag. Former PGA Tour (...)
ORLANDO, Florida – Patty Tavatanakit’s biggest weapon on Sunday at the Gainbridge LPGA might be the man carrying her bag. Former PGA Tour player Grant Waite works as Tavatanakit’s coach and took her up on caddying for the first two weeks of her season so that he could get a close-up look at how she works inside the ropes.
Tavatanakit, 21, said she feels secure having Waite beside her and it shows. She’s currently one stroke shy of Nelly Korda after a third-round 66 that included four birdies on her last five holes.
“I feel like these two weeks I’m just going to learn a lot just how to be really comfortable,” said Tavatanakit, “and be independent on like decision-making and club selection.”
In July 2019, a 19-year-old Tavatanakit had the golf world on a 59 watch in only her fourth start as a professional. She became the third player in LPGA history to card three eagles in nine holes, making the turn in 29 at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. The rising Thai star was 13 under through 10 holes and ultimately finished with a course-record 11-under 61.
Gainbridge LPGA: Leaderboard
Golf Channel broke into its re-airing of the Irish Open to show Tavatanakit’s finish.
Tavatanakit recently moved from Los Angeles to Orlando and now practices out of Isleworth, Lake Nona’s sister club. She connected with Waite, who is also a member at Isleworth, because her boyfriend Andy Zhang frequently practices with Waite’s son, Osten. When the four touring pros would play together, Tavatanakit often peppered Grant with questions.
After competing on the PGA Tour for 13 years Waite, the 1993 Kemper Open champion, switched gears to teaching. His roster of Tour clients included Charles Howell, Aaron Baddeley, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir.
The Kiwi then stopped coaching to join the PGA Tour Champions, that is until two surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff sent him back to the teaching ranks. In addition to Tavatanakit, Waite also works with Jennifer Song and Korn Ferry Tour player Curtis Luck. He’s healthy now and hoping to get back out to the senior circuit in 2021.
“One of the big things we’ve been working on is understanding how to play a round of golf in terms of when to be aggressive, when not to,” said Waite.
To be an effective coach, Waite said, it’s important to be able to understand a player beyond the golf swing, which is why these two weeks should prove to be invaluable.
Tavatankit, a former UCLA standout, is grateful to have this second chance at a rookie season.
“Last year was really hard for me just COVID and traveling alone, not having my parents here,” said Tavatanakit, “which was my decision to kind of want to like grow out of that relationship. It was a hard one to take for me, but I stuck to it, and it’s another rookie you’re for me. I’m grateful for that.
“I learned a lot last year and it really did help me to become like stronger mentally and just know that it’ll be OK.”
It can get loud playing with Tavatanakit. She’s a loud breather by design, exhaling deeply before every shot to keep her heart rate under control. She has been known to be tough on herself.
“I feel like if I hold it in it’ll be suffocating,” said Tavatanakit. “I just need to let it out there.”