Golf: Eila Galitsky, 16, wins Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific C’ship; describes it as a ‘life-changing’ moment

Eila Galitsky, 16, won the 2023 Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific with a 14-under total, five strokes ahead of runner-up Kim Min-sol. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE – Eila Galitsky may only be 16, but the Thai teenager showed nerves of steel to recover from late setbacks and win the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship with three birdies in her last four holes on Sunday.

The overnight leader was five strokes clear of South Korea’s Kim Min-sol at the Singapore Island Country Club when she had her first slip-up. She missed a one-foot par putt on the 14th.

After recovering with birdies on the 15th and 16th, she found the fairway bunker off the tee on the 17th and had to dig into her mental reserves to scramble for par.

Buoyed by the recovery, she fired a 375-yard drive down the fairway slope on the par-five 18th, found the green on her approach shot and two-putted for birdie to sign for a four-under 68, and seal what she described as a “life-changing” win.

Galitsky, who finished on a 14-under 274 total, was five strokes ahead of second-placed Kim, who carded a 70 for a nine-under total. Hong Kong’s Sophie Han (71) was among four players who finished joint-third on six under.

As the winner, Galitsky will play in three of 2023’s Majors – the Women’s British Open, Evian Championship and the Chevron Championship. She also gets an exemption into the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

She said: “I was very, very nervous going into the first tee today. I woke up at 4.30 this morning and didn’t really get a lot of sleep last night. It was an amazing feeling when I holed that final putt. It’s life-changing for me as not many 16-year-olds can say they’ve played in three Majors, right?”

Galitsky, whose pre-tournament target was just to make the cut and had lost five balls in the practice round, said the victory has finally given her the belief that she is good enough to turn professional. She will also be eyeing the SEA Games gold in Cambodia after finishing fifth in Hanoi in 2022.

A fist pump was all Galitsky mustered after she won. Her mother, Wasana, burst into tears when they finally embraced.

Eila Galitsky, 16, embracing her mother, Wasana, after holing the winning putt on the 18th green. ST PHOTO: Kelvin Chng

“Mum, don’t cry,” Galitsky said. But her mum’s tears kept flowing.

Wasana said: “She likes to compete and she loves golf. I just could not believe that she finally made it. I am just so proud and happy for her.”

Galitsky, who is a citizen of Thailand and Canada, added: “I haven’t shed a single tear yet. Maybe tonight when I talk to my mum. But now I’m just too nervous and excited to cry.”

First to congratulate Galitsky was Hailey Loh, who finished tied-22nd and was the highest-ranked Singaporean in the 85-strong field. The duo became good friends after meeting at the Hanoi Games.

Hailey Loh (second from left) and other Thai golfers dousing 2023 Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific winner Eila Galitsky with water on the 18th green. ST PHOTO: Kelvin Chng

Loh, who carded a final-day 72 for a three-over total, credited the “overwhelming” support from her friends and family for an improved showing. She said: “Last year, I missed the cut and didn’t play too well. I made the cut by five shots this time and had four decent rounds.”

The 20-year-old, who studies at California Baptist University, will return to the US before heading to the May 5-17 Cambodia Games.

Hanoi Games silver medallist Aloysa Atienza shot a 76 to end joint 49th on 16-over 304.

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