Pauline del Rosario put in a gutsy one-under par 71 and surged ahead by four as erstwhile leaders Numa Gulyanamitta and Nimmitta Juntanaket of Thailand and Korean Euna Koh melted in extreme heat and tough condition in the second round of the ICTSI Luisita Ladies Challenge at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Wednesday.
Two adrift of the foreign troika with a shaky 74 in the opening of the P1 million event Tuesday, Del Rosario took control with a two-birdie, two-bogey frontside effort as Gulyanamitta and Juntanaket skied with identical 40s and Koh fumbled with a 39 trying to buck the tight layout’s challenge and the hot condition. The rookie Filipina pro then birdied No. 10 and 16 to pull way but failed to go up-and-down on the par-3 17th and settled for a 36-35 card.
Still, her 71, the best in the tournament thus far, and a one-over 145 aggregate put the former Philippine Ladies Amateur Open champion 18 holes away from nailing her maiden pro victory after falling short by two in a joint runner-up finish in her pro in the ICTSI Champion Tour at Splendido won by Thai Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul last month.
Gulyanamitta did recover with a closing 37 but her 77 dropped to second at 149 while Nemittra Juntanaket birdied the 18th to card a 76 and tie sister Nimmitta and Koh, who limped with 78s, at 150 for joint third in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Despite the huge lead, the former The Country Club spearhead remains wary of her chances for the top P250,000 purse, mentioning the layout’s ever-present challenges and the terrors lurking on its unpredictable surface.
“Luisita is so tough that the challenges vary each day. Its unpredictable greens are also hard to master,” said Del Rosario, also a former Thailand Ladies Amateur Open titlist and winner of a number of local and international titles.
Indonesian Jessica Lydia, tied with Del Rosario at fourth at the start of another scorching day, held her ground with a 37 start but lost steam at the back, fumbling with four bogeys and a double-bogey for a 42 and 79. She slipped to sixth at 153, eight strokes behind in the event, backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.
Thai Jaruporn Palakawongnaayuttawa struggled with a 78 for a 154 while 2015 winner Cristina Corpus groped for a 79 and 155 and last year’s Orchard leg winner Chihiro Ikeda bounced back with a 76 after an 81 to tie former LPGT leg winner Sarah Ababa, who made an 80, and amateur Sofia Chabong of Team TCC, who shot a 78, at 157.
Del Rosario actually bogeyed the opening hole but birdied No. 2 and parred the next three before dropping another stroke on the sixth. He parred No. 7 then birdied the next and made a routine par on the par-5 ninth to go even at the turn and seize the lead.
Gulyanamitta, who hit three birdies against the same numbers of bogeys to gain a share of the opening round lead, bogeyed four of the first nine holes, rebounded with a birdie on the 10th but bogeyed two of the next three against a slew of pars for that 77 while Nimmitta failed to recover from a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 No. 5 on her way to a 78.
Nemittra, who matched Del Rosario’s 74 start, made three bogeys at the front and had a two-birdie, three-bogey stint in the last nine holes for that 76 while Koh bogeyed four of her first eight holes, birdied the ninth but reeled back with three bogeys in the last five for that 78.