Hwang Ye-nah never missed a beat since scoring a wire-to-wire triumph at ICTSI Ladies Open at Southlinks two years ago, shooting an eagle-spiked six-under 66 in the wind to open a five-stroke lead over Princess Superal at the start of the ICTSI Champion Tour at Malarayat in Lipa City, Batangas on Wednesday.
The Korean ace, 23, actually overcame an early bogey mishap on No. 12 where she teed off, birdying two of the next three holes and gunning down the day’s lone eagle from seven feet on the par-5 17th off a solid 5-wood utility second shot from 190 yards. She sustained her hot charge at the front with four birdies in the first seven holes but missed posting a bigger lead with a bogey on the par-3 eighth.
Still, her 33-33 card spoke well of the caliber of the player who beat Superal at Southlinks in 2015 with the duo appeared headed for another title face-off after the Filipina ace carded a 71 to assume the challenger’s role in the $75,000 event presented by Champion and serving as part of the Taiwan LPGA Tour and the second leg of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
“I played pretty good, especially my putting. The wind was too strong and I’m lucky to turn in a sub-par round,” said Hwang.
Another Korean, amateur Hwang Min-jeong matched par 72 at the Mt. Malarayat composite course where she reigned, also after edging Superal and Cyna Rodriguez in 2015, for joint third with fellow amateur Fil-Japanese Yuka Saso, Taiwanese Chang Hsuan-ping and Thai Piyathida Ployumsri.
Janya Morrakotpan, also of Thailand, and Ai Tanaka of Japan turned in identical 73s while Rodriguez birdied the last two holes at the front to save a 74 for joint ninth with local bet Apple Fudolin, Fil-Am Cristina Corpus, Japanese Mayumi Chinzei and Thai Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, winner of the inaugural Philippine Ladies Masters at Alabang last December.
Rookie pro Pauline del Rosario, joint second in last week’s ICTSI Champion Tour at Splendido won by absentee Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul, groped for form all day, so did the two other local aces and Symetra Tour-bound Dottie Ardina and Mia Piccio as the troika hobbled with similar 76s and fell 10 shots off the pace.
Other four-over par scorers were Wanchana Poruangrong, Numa Gulyanamitta and Narisara Kerdrit of Thailand and amateur Hou Yu-chiang of Taiwan.
Sharing 14th place with 75s are Senno Yasufuku of Japan, Thais Nanthikarn Raksachat, Chonlada Chayanun, Chatprapa Siriprakob and Chayuda Singhsuwan and Taiwanese amateur Hou Yu-sang.
While majority of the 70-player starting field succumbed to the demanding condition and submitted over-par cards, Hwang flashed superb form despite lack of practice at the Mt. Lobo and Mt. Malipunyo nines, leaning on sheer guts and determination to beat the elite field, that includes the leading players from Thailand and Taiwan.
“I am not famillar with the course because this is the first time I played here. I’m happy because I scored this round in my first appearance here,” said Hwang.
Superal, the former US Girls’ Junior champion and many-time winner on the LPGT as an amateur and pro, checked a roller-coaster round with two birdies in the last three holes at the front.
“The course is very difficult and the wind was strong. The greens are tricky and difficult,” said Superal, who wavered early at the back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 13, drew level with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 but went on a bogey-birdie-start at the front.
She, however, birdied Nos. 7 and 9 to seize solo second in the 54-hole championship backed by ICTSI, BDO, Champion, Custom Clubmakers, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Titleist and Event Captain.