Matteo Manassero, Italy
2009-2010 – World number one for 17 weeks
Manassero made history at Formby Golf Club in June 2009 when he defeated England’s Sam Hutsby 4&3 in the final of the Amateur Championship. Not only did he become the first Italian to win the Amateur, he also set a record as youngest winner at age 16.
The boy from Verona earned an invitation to the 2009 Open Championship, and the 2010 Masters. He took the silver medal as leading amateur in the Open Championship at Turnberry. He then set a record in the 2010 Masters when, still 16, he became the youngest player to make the cut. He finished in joint 36th place, the best showing by a European amateur for 73 years.
Manassero turned professional immediately after the Masters. It didn’t take him long to beat Europe’s best professionals. He became the Tour’s youngest winner with victory in the 2010 Castello Masters at age 17 years and 188 days. He thus became the second youngest full European Tour Member in history after Seve Ballesteros.
Three victories followed in each of the next three seasons, the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open, 2012 Barclays Singapore Open and the 2013 BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
The BMW PGA win carried a five-year European Tour exemption. It also helped Manassero reach 25th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Unfortunately, Manassero has struggled with his game in recent years. He lost his European Tour card at the conclusion of the 2018 season, finishing 122nd on the Race to Dubai. He slipped to 293rd after the 2019 season, and began this year hoping to concentrate on the European Challenge Tour to regain full playing rights on Europe’s top circuit.
He’s currently ranked 1,600 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Atthaya Thitikul, Thailand
2019 – World number one for 12 weeks
Thitikul was just one tournament into her professional career when the coronavirus shut down golf. She’d made a great start with a ninth-place finish in the NSW Open. That didn’t surprise avid golf fans: Thitikul was making great impressions in professional golf before she turned pro earlier this year.
The Thai player already has two Ladies European Tour victories to her name while still an amateur. She made history in 2017 by winning the Ladies European Tour Thailand Championship at just 14 years, four months and 19 days old. She made history by becoming the youngest player to win a professional tournament.
Thitikul repeated the victory in 2019 when she emerged triumphant by five shots.
June 2019 saw Thitikul make more history by becoming the first Thai player, male or female, to reach the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking®. It was only a matter of time before she attained that lofty position, given her achievements in amateur golf.
The 2018 season saw Thitikul achieve her biggest amateur victory when she won the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship. She came close to successfully defending her title last year, but finished runner-up.
Among her other amateur trophies are the Taiwan Amateur and Dutch International Junior Open, which she won in 2017. Aside from the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, the 2018 season saw her win the Queen Sirikit Cup, the World Junior Girls Championship and earn a gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games.
She repeated as World Junior Girls Champion in 2019, won the Thailand Ladies Amateur Open. She also finished low amateur in the Women’s British Open for the second straight year.
No wonder many expect Thitikul to have a successful professional career.