NAPLES, FLORIDA | Earlier this week, Patty Tavatanakit’s agent set up a breakfast with Patty and one of her sponsors at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort just a few paces from the 18th green at Tiburon Golf Club. At the time, the amount of money Patty would be paid by said sponsor was on the table. So, Patty came down to the hotel lobby in a UCLA sweatshirt looking like a college kid on her way to Starbucks. She drank good coffee – one of the luxuries she affords herself – and chatted for about 20 minutes before heading back to her room to clean up and get ready for her practice round.
The moment she walked away, the sponsor looked at the agent and said, “I want to sign Patty for the rest of her career. And I don’t think we are paying her enough.”
That is the impact she has on the people she meets. It’s a charisma and magnetism that is impossible to describe. Patty is, in her words, “chill” in everything she does. The way she walks, the way she talks, the way she plays, the way she engages with people she’s never met. She is a combination of Fred Couples and Jack Nicholson – oozing the kind of cool you wish you’d had when you were her age, while also possessing a fiery passion just below the surface.
“If you ask me am I ever not chill then I would say, yes, because golf is a stressful game,” she said on Wednesday before the opening round of the CME Group Tour Championship. “You go out there and you're trying to not make mistakes. But when you can do things repetitively, it takes stress out of play, and so I was pretty chill last week. I was not chill at ANA (now the Chevron Championship where she won) or (the) Kia (Classic) where I missed the cut and had to find a caddie. U.S. Open I was not chill. There was a lot going on. There are weeks like that.”
There have also been weeks where she seemed to have golf and life on cruise control. In addition to her Chevron Championship win, Patty finished T-5 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and T-7 at the AIG Women’s Open, locking up the Rolex Annika Major Award in a trot. She also had 10 top-10 finishes, second-most of the year behind Jin Young Ko. She ranked 7th in rounds under par with 44, which was extraordinary given that she took several weeks off during the season. And, in addition to being the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, she is currently third in the Rolex LPGA Player of the Year race behind Ko and Nelly Korda. She comes into the week at No.4 in the Race to the CME Globe and she finished T-6 last week at the Pelican Women’s Championship presented by Konica Minolta and Raymond James.
That’s a career year for most people. But Patty just shrugs and smiles.
“I actually talked to my caddie a lot about how we think we overachieved,” she said. “But, I mean, realistically speaking, we feel like we haven't had a week where everything has come together. Ball-striking is great and putting is not there or putting is great and ball-striking is not there. It’s just kind of on and off.
“It's a good sign that I'm able to have high finishes without my A game. It's good to know that I have that ability.”
She is also brutally honest. Talk to her for more than a minute or two and you realize that this is a woman with a deep intellect and a remarkable ability for self-reflection. You get the sense that if she wasn’t shooting 66, she’d be your cardiologist or on a CEO career track at a multinational corporation.
Of the week in the California desert when she became a major champion, Patty said. “I think I really did blackout that week. Everything was going so well, and, you know, I wasn't distracted. I was really focused for the whole week. But, honestly, I didn't feel like myself. I felt like I was like kind of empty and dead on the inside, which for golf sometimes, you need that. That's just not really who I am.
“The whole week I didn't really have that liveliness in me, and that's just not who I am. For some reason, I played well in that situation.
“There are always some things you have to manage on and off the course and there is stuff going on that you just (have to) shut out and just keep focusing on what's in front of you.”
“That's why I want to keep it more chill,” she said. “That's just kind of the balance (I need). I'm still searching. This is only my second year on tour and I'm still searching. It's my first time really being a top player that everyone is kind of paying attention to each week. It's not the easiest thing to manage. But I feel like I'm doing a good job.”
No one would argue with that last statement. As good jobs go, Patty seems to have it down to a science.
The chill part? That comes naturally. Hopefully, it will never change.