Chihiro Ikeda rode on a fiery windup to card a three-under 68 and force a tie with Yupaporn Kawinpakorn of Thailand, two strokes ahead of Cyna Rodriguez at the start of the ICTSI Beverly Place Ladies Classic at the Beverly Place in Mexico, Pampanga on Tuesday.
Save for a player or two, the compact field scorched the flat par-71 layout’s backside with a run of under-par scores with Ikeda, seeking a follow-up to her Forest Hills playoff win over Thai Wannasiri Sirirampant last November, closing out with three birdies in the last six holes to rebound from an even 34 start.
Kawinpakorn, flashing the form that netted her the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour’s season-ending event crown at South Forbes three weeks ago, actually looked headed to seizing the solo lead with a solid three-under card after 15 holes. But the Thai veteran campaigner bogeyed No. 16 and needed to birdie the par-5 17th to join the Fil-Japanese at the helm.
“Happy to get into the groove in the last few holes and made those late birdies,” said Ikeda, who had a rollercoaster start of two birdies against two bogeys in the first seven holes. After five pars, she drilled in a six-foot birdie putt on No. 13 then hit back-to-back birdies from No. 16.
Rodriguez, who used to dominate the LPGT before campaigning in the LPGA and Symetra Tours with Dottie Ardina and Princess Superal, rebounded from a three-over card at the front with a sizzling four-birdie feat at the back, including the 18th, also a par-5, to wrest solo third at 70.
But while the frontrunners cashed in on the birdie holes at the back, Superal reeled back with a bogey on the 17th to settle for a 71 in a tie with Ardina and Tiranan Yoopan, also of Thailand, three shots off the joint leaders with 36 holes to play in the three-day event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Ardina, who birdied No. 9 to snap a run of pars, also floundered with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 16 but birdied the 17th while Yoopan recovered from bogeys on Nos. 7 and 9 with birdies on Nos. 15 and 17.
Like Superal, Thai Chitawadee Duangchan wavered at the finish, blowing a three-under card with a bogey on No. 16 and a triple-bogey on the next, slipping instead to seventh at 72 while unheralded Sheryl Villesencio birdied two of the last four to save a 73 and tie Thais Pimsadron Sangkagaro and Aunchia Utama at eighth in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.