After moving halfway across the world, freshman Fifa Laopakdee is building on a lifetime of golf experience to succeed against collegiate competition. Originally from Thailand, Laopakdee has settled into life stateside to become one of ASU’s most exciting golfers.
Back at home, Laopakdee gained interest in golf at a young age when his dad, who plays for fun, introduced him to the sport. From that point on, Laopakdee gained a love for the game and practiced nearly every day he could. With his parents’ support, he began traveling to the United States each summer to compete in tournaments when he was only six.
After years of competing, Laopakdee became the youngest player to ever qualify for the Thai National Team at just 13. In high school, Laopakdee lived up to his nation’s expectations by earning low scores at junior tournaments around the globe.
In 2022, Laopakdee was invited to compete in the World Amateur Team Championship and the Junior Presidents Cup. That same year, he won back-to-back AJGA events at the Future Legends Junior Championship and the Coca-Cola Junior Championship in the United States. Demonstrating his domestic dominance, Laopakdee became the first player to win the SINGHA Thailand Amateur Open two years in a row.
After countless appearances at home and abroad, Laopakdee was ranked as Thailand’s best junior golfer and became one of the most sought-after players in Asia by college coaches.
Although he’d been scouted for years, Laopakdee hadn’t considered ASU until he met head coach Matt Thurmond at the European Young Masters. While Thurmond was there to see junior Josele Ballester and sophomore Michael Mjaaseth, Laopakdee was able to gain his attention by placing fourth with a 66.
After Thurmond asked him to come to ASU, Laopakdee said he chose to become a Sun Devil to follow in the path of former greats like Spanish golfer Jon Rahm.
“I was looking up to them a lot,” Laopakdee said. “That’s why I chose ASU: so that I can follow the same path.”
Touching down in Tempe, Laopakdee has settled into his new life by focusing on golf while balancing a full course load. Reflecting on his busy schedule, Laopakdee said he appreciates Thurmond’s high expectations and wants to take advantage of ASU’s resources to become a better golfer.
“No matter what, if you play good you prove yourself, and (if) you play bad you have a learning experience,” Laopakdee said. “It's such a nice experience being a Sun Devil.”
In his first tournament, Laopakdee dominated the field at the Maui Jim Individual. He was one of four competitors the Sun Devils registered while the rest of the team competed at the Sahalee Players Championship. Coming out hot, Laopakdee shot 15-under 201 (70-64-67) to claim first place out of 35 competitors.
At his next tournament, Laopakdee ran into stiff competition in his first invitational with the entire team. Less than a week after competing in Arizona, he slipped to 37th place at the Fighting Illini Invitational by shooting four-over 144 (74-70). Unfazed by the difficult outing, Laopakdee said he valued the opportunity to go head-to-head against a tough field of competition.
While he still has much to prove as a freshman, Laopakdee has impressed the team’s veterans with his fine skills and his resume of quality performances before college. Graduate Ryggs Johnston said Laopakdee has a pure swing and a big upside, but recognized that there are still facets of his game he should improve.
“I'm sure once you get into college, you have time to work on that and the practice facilities and coaches and being around all the other guys on the team really helps,” Johnston said. “So I'm sure he's going to improve fast.”
Echoing his veteran’s praise, Thurmond believes that Laopakdee has the potential to be a superb player. Thurmond said that Laopakdee has exhibited a strong work ethic and golf mindset that, when combined with his skill set on the green, makes him a great addition to his program.
“He’s a super talented player and we knew he was really good,” Thurmond said. “He's maybe even better than we expected – he's awesome.”
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Sadie Buggle and Angelina Steel.