Rookie Natthakritta Vongtaveelap made herself at home in her native Thailand on Friday, surging to the front of a packed leaderboard to claim sole possession of the lead of the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course in Chonburi.
A 20-year-old who began the second round in ninth place, Vongtaveelap tied the low score of this year’s event with a 65 and sits 12-under after 36 holes, one shot clear of 23-year-old Swede Maja Stark (-11). Stark completed a bogey-free second round with a 5-under 67.
Five players are tied for third place at 10-under, including World No. 2 Nelly Korda and Celine Boutier (France). Boutier is bogey-free through two rounds.
“I feel excited to play in front of Thai fans. Yeah, this is my first time, you know. It’s my largest crowd in my life,” said Vongtaveelap, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens with 27 putts. “I just want to make more birdies so I have to play under the pressure. That’s it. I just want to make my score going better and better.”
Playing on a sponsor’s exemption after winning a national qualifier, Vongtaveelap knows how it feels to win in Thailand. She is a two-time winner of the Singha Thailand Amateur Open (2021, 2022) and won the 2021 Singha Thailand Ladies Amateur Open. She is one of three Thai players in the top 10 with 36 holes to play, including first-round co-leader and fellow LPGA Tour rookie Jaravee Boonchant.
Stark hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and said the second day of playing in temperatures above 90 degrees has given players freedom to go long off the tees and target pins, not greens. Her weekend priority is remaining calm while chasing her second career victory. She finished tied for second at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions to kick off the 2023 season.
“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,” Stark, 23, said. “Just keep putting my foot on the pedal as I said and try to go low. Not compare myself to other people. Just try to make as many birdies as I can.”
Korda, 24, birdied the first two holes in the second round and rattled in a chip for an eagle on the 10th for a round of 66.
“Hopefully I put myself into position after 36 holes and hopefully I have a good weekend, but any time that I can put myself into contention and hopefully battle for the title is super special,” Korda said.
Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, South Korea’s Jenny Shin and Boonchant also sit at -10 through two rounds.
–Field Level Media
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