In Nanjing in 2014, Thailand’s Danthai Boonma battled through a high quality field to claim individual bronze as golf made its debut at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). Less than four years later, the 22-year-old is a winner on the Asian Tour, is ranked inside the world’s top 300 and is making his debut at this week’s Open Championships, held at Carnoustie, in Scotland. Here, he reveals how Thai food is helping him cope with the nerves, why even Tiger Woods has to play second fiddle to his favourite rock band and what the effect the YOG has had on his burgeoning career.
How are you feeling ahead of the 147th Open Championships – your debut in a major?
I'm so excited to be playing in the first major of my life and for it to be the oldest major and also for it to be at Carnoustie, a historic Open course. A lot of big names have won the Open here. I have worked hard to fulfil my dream of playing in this, the oldest Major.
Marcus Kinhult, Sweden’s silver medallist from the YOG Nanjing 2014, is here making his debut at the Open with you; and Italian Renato Paratore, the gold medallist from Nanjing, has already won on the European Tour – what is it about the YOG that has created so many top young golfers?
It is great to see Renato and Marcus play great golf. I still have to work harder to be at an international level. It is good that we have tough competition between us. The Youth Olympic Games is one of the competitions that first allowed us to really experience international golf.
How are you coping with the nerves?
I have my family along with me − we rented a house in Carnoustie. My parents cook for me like when I'm home – I love beef pad krapao. It is my favourite dish, I can eat it every day. My dad makes it taste great and I think I have copied him because I can cook it too. My coaches, manager and caddie − we are all here together like a big family, so I can relax.
Also before coming to the Open, I studied how to play links courses, especially Carnoustie of course. I watched TV footage of (past) Opens at Carnoustie (most recently in 2007 and 1999) and I got advice from Boonchu Ruangit and Prom Meesawat about playing here.
So, I have practised what I need to do to play links golf and also how to deal with the weather in Scotland.
What is your biggest strength as a golfer?
Putting is what I focus on. I always challenge myself to overcome any kind of greens and win tournaments through fantastic putting.
You've said before that Tiger Woods is a huge hero of yours – have you met him yet?
I saw Tiger at the range last Sunday when he practised, but I haven’t had the chance to say hello to him yet. If I get chance to meet with Tiger I will say in Thai ‘sawasdee krab’ and ‘chokdee krab’ – ‘hello’ and ‘good luck’.
Have you tried to copy anything about Tiger’s game or his mental approach?
When I was young, I was really impressed by how Tiger hit chip shots. He didn't wear a glove when he chipped and, maybe because I was so young, I thought this made him hit good chips. So, until now I have done the same and not worn a glove when I chip.
We understand you are a big music fan, particularly of Thai rock band, Bodyslam − if you could hang out with Tiger Woods or Bodyslam, which would you choose?
I would love to spend the evening with Bodyslam. Sometimes I need to be out of golf and just relax. Being with Bodyslam would be my ideal way of relaxing. Especially with band leader Bro Toon. He is my idol. His songs would mean I would have a wonderful time.
How would you encourage more kids to take up golf?
I'm sure that there are more kids playing golf now in Thailand, after following our Thai players like Thongchai Jaidee, Prayad Marksaeng, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Pornanong Phatlum and Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. And just now Thidapa Suwannapura won an LPGA Tour event. I think because of these successful Thai players it will lead to more juniors being interested in playing golf. And I hope to be one of these successful players inspiring others as well
Are the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a big target for you?
I am currently ranked the seventh best Thai golfer, which is not good enough. But to be able to represent Thailand in an Olympic Games is my dream. I got the bronze medal in the Youth Olympic Games − I hope I can have chance to do that again in the Olympic Games. I need to work harder to be ranked higher in the world. I have to win more tournaments.