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Avani eyes one more shot at iconic Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific title

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Pattaya (Thailand), Jan 30 (PTI) India’s Avani Prashanth is looking forward to a packed calendar over the next few weeks as she criss-crosses across the continent in search of golf glory at one of the world's best amateur events.

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The 17-year-old Bengaluru golfer, who started 2024 with two weeks in Australia while getting close to winning at one occasion, is now all set to tee off at the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific (WAAP) golf.

Avani will make her fourth appearance at this event which carries extra significance, since the winner gets to seal a berth in three of the five women’s Majors.

On her part, Avani feels this event owes her one good finish before she moves on in her career.

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Avani was also thrilled for receiving a special invite to the Augusta National Women Amateur championships, which is held a week before the storied Masters at the Augusta National.

Immediately after the 2024 WAAP, Avani will be off for the Kenya Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour, wherein she finished in the top 10 last year.

The next on her schedule is another well-known amateur event, the Sage Valley Invitational.

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She started 2024 with a runner-up finish at the Australian Masters of Amateurs and missed a top 10 by a whisker at the Australian Amateur Championships.

The focus for Avani and her five teammates, who have been fielded by the Indian Golf Union, is the WAAP.

Her teammates are Vidhatri Urs, Mannat Brar, Keerthana Rajeev Nair, Saanvi Somu and Heena Kang. They will tee off at the Siam Country Club.

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The team is accompanied by former national champion Vandana Agarwal.

The top stars this week will include world No 4 Minsol Kim of Korea, Japan’s Hinano Muguruma (22nd), Sayaka Teraoka (23rd), Mamika Shinchi (33rd), Rin Yoshida (38th) and defending champion from Thailand Eila Galitsky (40th).

India’s Avani is 42nd and Rianne Malixi from the Philippines is 43rd.

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While this is the fourth appearance at WAAP for Avani, it is the second time for Vidhatri and Mannat. The other three, Keerthana Rajeev Nair, Saanvi Somu and Heena Kang are making their debut at WAAP.

Interestingly, Ceerat Kang’s sister Heena played at the WAAP in 2022 at the same course.

Vidhatri’s cousin Pranavi Urs, now a pro on the LET, has also played at the WAAP in the past.

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Avani, coming off her nine-hole practice round just before the rains arrived, said, “Somehow I have not managed to finish better than T-16.” Avani won the 2023 Queen Sirikit Individuals besides picking a title on a women’s pro event in Europe. She has multiple top 10s on Ladies European Tour events.

“Many of these girls I have been playing with over the years are here. We are all close to finishing with our amateur careers. It is great to be here once again,” she said.

“I have known Eila (Galitsky) since we were about nine. We played together in US Kids Golf, then at various other events. Now we will be playing at Sage Valley and ANWA together. We have also roomed together, and stay in touch,” Avani added.

“I also know others like Rianne (Malixi), Minsol and many others. So it is great to see everyone here. It’s a great event and I really want to do well, maybe win it once, before I turn pro,” she said.

Prizes and field =========== The prizes are considered as the very best in amateur golf for women. The winner gets starts at three major championships in 2024 — Women’s Open, the Evian Championship and Chevron Championship.

In addition, the winner will get invitations to play in the 121st Women’s Amateur Championship, Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, the Hana Financial Group Championship and the Women's Australian Open.

The field is made up of 90 players from 22 countries and only those in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) list are eligible to play. The leading 50 players (plus ties) progress past the 36-hole cut and play the final two rounds. PTI COR DDV

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