The local aces hope to measure up with a talent-laden foreign field, all upbeat of their chances in the rich ICTSI Champion Tour presented by Champion and Taiwan LPGA which gets going today (Wednesday, March 9) at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay.
But LPGA Tour campaigner Cyna Rodriguez, Symetra Tour mainstays Dottie Ardina and Mia Piccio and amateur ace Princess Superal will not only be slugging it out with the leading players from the Taiwan LPGA and some the top bets from Thailand, Korea, Japan and Malaysia but also with the par-72 layout which is expected to bring out the best and the worst in them with the wind expected to come into play in the next three days.
“It was hot out there and the wind will surely be a factor,” said Superal, the former US Girls’ Junior champion tipped to contend for the championship but not in the money race in the $75,000 event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Hot on a seven-win run, including the Hong Kong Amateur Ladies Open and the Philippine Ladies Open early this year, the 19-year-old Superal, also winner of three local pro events, drew Thai Saranporn Langkulgasettrin and Taiwanese Lee Tai-ling in the 8:40 a.m. flight on No. 1, hopeful of putting it all together right from the start for the needed momentum and confidence in the 54-hole tournament serving as the kickoff leg of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and the fifth leg of Taiwan LPGA.
Rodriguez, taking a break from the LPGA Tour where she had a not-so inspiring start of a joint 72nd finish in Bahamas and missed cut stints in Coates Golf Championship and Handa Women’s Australia Open, is also eyeing a good start with an early tee-time of 7:20 a.m., also on the first hole, in the company of Panuma Vitayakonkomol of Thailand and Taiwan’s Ching Huang.
Ardina, fighting off flu-like symptoms, will be playing with Korean Kang Ji-won and Taiwanese Cheng Yu-Ju, No. 10 in the current Taiwan LPGA Order of Merit ranking, at 8:10 a.m. on No. 1 while Piccio is set to start at 7:40 a.m., also on No. 1, with Taiwanese Cheng Cih-Hui and Korean Hwang Ye-Nah.
“I’m not feeling well but I’ll be alright tomorrow [today],” said Ardina, who begged off from yesterday’s traditional pro-am tournament but worked on her short game and putting to get a feel of the greens. “I think everybody has a chance since the course is very challenging.”
Hwang nipped Superal by one to capture the ICTSI Ladies Open crown, the inaugural Taiwan LPGA event, at Southlinks last year but the young Korean will be hard-pressed to score a repeat with a slew of talented players in the hunt for the top $15,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by adidas, Custom Clubmakers, KZG, TaylorMade, Champion, Summit Natural Drinking Water, Pacsports, Sharp and Rustans Supermarket.
Thai Kanphanitnan Muangkhumaskul, who topped the Taiwan LPGA kickoff leg in Hitachi Ladies Classic, kicks off her drive for a second leg win at 8:25 a.m. on No. 10 with compatriot Jane Lo and local amateur Yuka Saso, while Taiwanese Yu Pei-lin, No. 8 in the TLPGA OOM ranking, will also start on No. 10 at 7:45 a.m. in the company of Chen Min-jou, also of Taiwan, and local bet Lovelynn Guioguio.
Other players expected to contend are last year’s LPGT Sherwood winner Sarah Ababa, Fil-Am Cristina Corpus, who ruled the LPGT Luisita, former SEA Games gold medalist Chihiro Ikeda, and former Phl Ladies Open champion and LPGT leg winner Jayvie Agojo, former Philippine Ladies Open champion Lee Jeong-hwa of Korea and Thai Amolkan Phalajivin, who upended Rodriguez here in 2014.
The event also serves as the first of two Taiwan LPGA tournaments set here with the next, the ICTSI Champion Tour presented by Champion and Taiwan LPGA, slated March 16-18 at Manila Southwoods.
Meanwhlie, Taiwanese Huang Hsien-wen served notice of her title bid when she powered her team composed of Mario Pangan, Alex Ong and Fred Salonga to victory in the pro-am with an 18-under 54, four clear off Chen Yu-ju and teammates Jun Pacheco, Joel Iligan and Nemie Pagtakhan, who pooled a 58, nipping Sarah Ababa and partners Edison Yap, Butch Santos and Aaron Chua in the countback.