Before Atthaya Thitikul hit the first shot in the 10:01 grouping of the TOTO Japan Classic, one order of business had to be arranged: her caddie’s new bib. After the 19-year-old became the latest Rolex Rankings No. 1 player this past Monday, it meant that her caddie, Banpot Bunpisansaree, would be presented with the famous green bib, recognizing him as the caddie to the Word No. 1 whenever she played on site. After pictures and videos on the first tee at Seta Golf Club, Thitikul was proud of the fanfare, and knew it meant the world to her caddie.
“I meaned a lot to me but I think it meant a lot more to him,” said Thitikul. “I think he dreams of wearing the green bib since day one of caddying for me.”
Thitikul withstood the challenges Seta had to offer, posting a 1-under 71 to sit in a tie for 30th. It wasn’t the ideal start she was looking for, carding her first birdie of the day on No. 6 after opening with five-straight pars. She would add one last birdie on No. 13 and a bogey on 16, but was still positive with how she handled herself in her first appearance in Japan as an LPGA rookie and multiple Tour winner.
“Pretty good opening round for me already because I know the green is not that easy and it is not that easy to get like close to the pin because you can’t be aggressive that much, cause like I said the green is sloping from top to the front,” said Thitikul, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. “So [my caddie and I] have to manage how to put the ball in the right position.”
Thitikul opened the TOTO Japan Classic alongside Japan’s Yuka Saso and Mao Saigo, taking in the extensive crowds that came to watch the three duel it out over 18 holes, and said she’s excited to see the crowds only grow heading into the rest of the weekend. “I think all the fans mean a lot to us, not just me but all the players out here. All the people with their eyes on golf more, getting into golf more than we know, so I think it’s a good sign for us to have so many fans come out, all these little girls came out,” said Thitikul. “Since COVID, we haven’t had much fans like this, so I feel good seeing them come out and support us here.”