Amateur Sofia Chabon buried a late birdie from the long range to salvage an even par 71 and snatch a one-stroke lead over fancied Cyna Rodriguez at the start of the ICTSI Splendido Ladies Invitational at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay on Wednesday.
Chabon, one of the five mainstays of Team ICTSI in the event, bucked a bogey opening, a missed green miscue and a three-putt mishap with superb iron play to gun down birdies, the last from around 20 feet on No. 16 that got her past Rodriguez, who needed to birdie Nos. 15 and 16 to save a 72 on the rolling 6,050-yard layout.
“My irons were great today [yesterday]as two of my birdies were easy ones,” said Chabon, who had a tap-in on No. 2 and drilled in a 10-footer on the par-5 11th.
The 13-year-old Chabon, winner of her age group in last year’s Singapore Juniors and this year’s Royal Selangor Juniors, is seeking to achieve what ICTSI teammate Pauline del Rosario had failed to do at Eagle Ridge. Del Rosario, who is competing in the Asian Games with Princess Superal and Miya Legaspi, led Rodriguez by three in the first round but faltered and settled for runner-up honors.
Rodriguez, who dominated the first and the last three legs of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminals Services, Inc., birdied the par-5 No. 1 but struggled in tough condition on a hot, humid day.
“The course is short on paper but long when you play it. I need to hit it longer in the second round to get another shot at the crown,” said Rodriguez, who rolled in a 30-footer on the opening hole but three-putted No. 3, flubbed a 10-foot putt for par on the next, missed the green on No. 13 then made another three-putt bogey on the next.
But she recovered with back-to-back birdies from No. 15 inside seven feet, putting herself back in the hunt for another championship in the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.
True to their form, Team ICTSI mainstays Yuka Saso and Sam Martinez also moved in early contention with identical two-over 73s as Thai Amolkan Phalajivin, runner-up at John Hay and Mt. Malarayat, hobbled with a 74 and second leg winner at Riviera Jayvie Agojo fumbled with a 75 to drop in a tie with amateur Mikha Fortuna.
Chihiro Ikeda, the former SEA Games individual champion and one of the most dominant players in the amateurs for years, recovered a bit from a disastrous 42 with a closing 36 but stood seven shots off Chabon at 78.
The other seven-over scorers were Anya Tanpinco and Lovelynn Guioguio.
Saso, winner o the Sabah International Juniors crown last week, actually seized control with birdies on Nos. 1 and 3. But the 12-year-old Fil-Japanese find fumbled with seven bogeys against two more birdies for a 34-40 card.
“If I can work on putting, I have a chance to win this week,” said Saso, who also won in the Annual Costa Mesa Championship in California last month, in the Jakarta Junior World Championship last June and tin he Jack Nicklaus Juniors in China last May.
Martirez, also coming off back-to-back victories in the Malaysian 100 Plus Juniors Championship and in Kota Kinabalu last week, stumbled with four bogeys with only a birdie to show in a 38-36 round but liked her chances with 36 holes left in the event serving as the sixth leg of the eighth-stage circuit.