Pauline del Rosario became the first Filipina to win on the lucrative Taiwan LPGA Tour, claiming the TLPGA and Royal Open crown in style on a closing six-under 66 at the Royal Kuan-His Golf Club in Hsinchu County, Taiwan last Sunday.
The 18-year-old rallied charged back from seven down in the final round on a sizzling backside rally, finishing with a pair of 33s and nipping Taiwan OOM leader Yu Ju Chen by one on a 12-under 204 aggregate.
“I never expected to win at all. I didn’t have any time for practice and just slept two hours and then it was game time,” said the ICTSI-backed pro who has racked up a number of titles here and abroad as an amateur.
Chen slugged it out with Del Rosario in the last 18 holes, keeping a one-stroke lead by matching the Filipina’s 33 at the turn. But Del Rosario rattled off three straight birdies from No. 10 to grab the lead, fell into a tie with a bogey against Chen’s birdie on No. 14 but gunned down a clutch birdie from eight feet on No. 16 to edge Chen, who finished with a 68-205, by one.
Taiwan amateur Yu Sang Hou actually seized control with a solid 63 in the second round and took a huge lead heading to the final round but crumbled when the pressure got tough and skied to a 76, ending up fourth at 207 behind Thai Dusawi Soopimjit, who shot a 67 for a 206.
“Though I was down by 7 in the second round against an amateur, I was more worried with the Taiwanese and the Thai pros since they are the top players in the field,” added Del Rosario.
Del Rosario pocketed NT$1,200,000 (P2 million) for her feat that further enhanced a promising young pro career she launched earlier this year with a pair of runner-up finishes and a third place effort on the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour before scoring back-to-back victories at Orchard and Baguio.
What made her breakthrough TLPGA win doubly significant was she did it without the benefit of a practice round at the par-72 layout.
Rushing to the airport after nailing her third LPGT victory at Pradera Verde in Pampanga last Thursday, Del Rosario took the last flight to Taiwan, slept for just about two hours then headed to the Royal Kuan-His Golf Club course Friday morning.
She bucked fatigue and lack of sleep and leaned on sheer golf IQ and course management to tackle an unfamiliar layout. She opened with a decent 70, took enough sleep then fired a 68 in the second round.
Still, her 138 put her seven shots behind Hou but just one off Chen and a stroke ahead of Thailand LPGA OOM leader Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, who also won the LPGT Philippine Masters crown at the Alabang Country Club late last year.
She birdied four against a bogey at the front and as Hou started to fade with an opening 38, Del Rosario surged ahead by two over Chen on a three-birdie string from No. 10. But the Taiwanese ace pounced on a two-shot swing on No. 14 to draw level but reeled back again as Del Rosario rolled in a delicate putt from eight feet on the 16th to regain the lead then matched Chen’s pars in the last two to clinch the victory.