Pauline del Rosario charged back with late birdies to card a 73 and grab a one-stroke lead over Thai Pannapa Polnamin and two other locals at the start of the ICTSI Orchard Ladies Invitational at Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Wednesday.
Del Rosario, out to snap a pair of runner-up finishes in the first three legs of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to emerge from the middle of the 30-player pack to the top of the heap with a 36-37 card.
But the former Philippine Ladies Open champion, who stumbled with four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch from No. 8 after birdying No. 7, is chased by a slew of pursuers, including defending champion Chihiro Ikeda, former LPGT leg winner Sarah Ababa and Thai first-timer Polnamin, who all turned in 74s.
The lead changed hands so often in hot condition with Apple Fudolin wresting early control with a one-under card after 10 holes before sliding to joint fifth at 75 after four bogeys, and Ababa and Polnamin taking charge with one-under after No. 12, only to falter with three bogeys in the next four.
Five shared the lead in one stretch before the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. suspended play due to threat of lightning late in the afternoon just after Del Rosario surged ahead with that birdie-par-birdie windup.
“The greens are slow and tough to read compared to where I played last week in Thailand LPGA,” said Del Rosario in describing her early struggle on the putting surface where she muffed par-putts inside eight feet on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 16.
But she came away with superb wedge shots in the last three holes, setting up a 12-footer on No. 16 and a 10-footer on the last to gain control.
Ababa, seeking a follow-up to her Sherwood victory in 2015, hit back-to-back birdies from No. 8 to negate a bogey on No. 2. But like majority of the field, she went on a rollercoaster ride coming home, dropping three shots on Nos. 13, 14 and 16 and ending up with a 74.
Ikeda also faltered at the back but made a last-hole fightback with a birdie to salvage a two-over card and tie Ababa and Polnamin, who blew her bid for the lead with three straight bogeys from No. 13.
Thai Jaruporn Palakawong Na Ayutthaya made a 35 at the front but fumbled with five bogeys in the last eight and fell to 76 while amateur Sam Bruce birdied the 18th for a 77 for eighth.
Eagle Ace Superal, another amateur, birdied the first two holes but the younger sister of Symetra Tour campaigner and many-time LPGT champion Princess wavered the rest of the way, making seven bogeys and a double-bogey against one more birdie for a 78 in a tie with Thai Alisara Wedchakama.