• Del Rosario forges ahead but Superal rallies

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    Pauline del Rosario closed out both nines in fiery fashions to churn out a three-under 69 and grab a one-stroke lead over Bernice Olivarez-Ilas as The Country Club aces took charge over the pros in the second round of the ICTSI Eastridge Ladies Invitational at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal on Thursday.

    But rookie pro Princess Superal came through with a birdie-eagle finish to save a 71 in another rain-hit day and join erstwhile Chihiro Ikeda, who matched par 72, at third at 142, just two strokes off Del Rosario, who pooled a 140, guaranteeing a fierce showdown in the last 18 holes of the P750,000 championship sponsored by ICTSI.

    Cyna Rodriguez birdied two of the last three holes but could only turn in a 73 as the LPGA veteran and two-time Order of Merit winner of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour fell four shots off the pace at 144 while Kayla Nocum and Mikha Fortuna, the top two players’ teammates in the TCC squad, took the next two spots with 70-145 and 74-147, respectively.

    Olivarez-Ilas, 14, actually upstaged the fancied Superal and Fortuna in second-to-last group, scorching the wet frontside of the mountain-top layout with a solid four-under 32 to seize a one-stroke lead over Del Rosario. But she stumbled with two bogeys against a birdie at the back and settled for a 69 although the De La Salle-Zobel student still stayed within striking distance at 141 for a shot at a second LPGT title after ruling the Beverly Place stop in Pampanga last April.

    Del Rosario, the reigning Thailand Ladies Amateur Open champion, also humbled Ikeda and Rodriguez in the featured flight with an opening 34 spiked by a three-birdie binge from No. 6 and stormed past Olivarez-Ilas with a birdie-birdie finish for a 34-35 card.

    “We struggled a bit at the front due to wet condition. The greens were a bit bumpy and slow but we’re still able to pull through,” said Del Rosario, who banged in a 12-footer on No. 17 and missed an eagle-putt off the fringe on the last hole.

    She hopes to sustain her form and hold sway against the expected final round charge by Olivarez-Ilas, Superal and Ikeda along with the other pursuers as she seeks to nail her first pro crown in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. after a number of near-misses.

    But focus will be on Superal, who bucked a bogey-bogey start and a three-over card after 13 holes with a four-under feat in the last five holes, capped by an eagle on the closing par-5 hole. She finished with a 33 and a 71.

    “It was raining hard and couldn’t get the feel on my putt and bogeyed the first two holes. But I settled down at the back, birdied Nos. 14 and 17 then eagled the last hole,” said Superal, seeking a follow-up to her thrilling victory at Sherwood three weeks ago where she edged three others, including Del Rosario and two Thais at Sherwood where she marked her pro debut.

    The former US Girls’ Junior champion, who also finished tied for second in the LPGA Q-School Stage I last month, highlighted her comeback with a superb 19-degree rescue shot from 194 yards and a 30-foot putt off the fringe for the eagle feat.

    Ikeda also put on a late charge to check an impending skid, birdying Nos. 16 and 18 from close range to salvage a 72 and tie Superal at two-under overall total to likewise remain in the hunt for a second crown after snapping a long title spell with a three-shot victory over Lovelynn Guioguio at the Orchard Classic last June.

    Apple Fudolin rallied with a 71 but stood nine strokes behind Del Rosario at 149 while last year’s leg winners Cristina Corpus (Luisita) and Sarah Ababa (Sherwood) both limped with 81s for joint ninth at 156 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.

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