Chihiro Ikeda checked a roller-coaster frontside stint in the rain with a solid backside finish, shooting two birdies for a 70 and a one-stroke lead over fancied flightmates Cyna Rodriguez and Princess Superal at the start of the ICTSI Eastridge Ladies Invitational at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal on Wednesday.
Ikeda, seeking a second career win after snapping a long title spell at Orchard last June, fought back from two shots behind Rodriguez in the early going with a long birdie on No. 10 and a four-footer on the par-5 13th then matched her rivals’ closing pars to turn in a 36-34 card to wrest control in the P750,000 championship sponsored by ICTSI.
Rodriguez, out to atone for a so-so stint in the last leg at Sherwood won by Superal, rebounded from a bogey start with a three-birdie binge from No. 2 to storm upfront. But the LPGA Tour veteran stumbled coming off a 30-minute rain delay with back-to-back bogeys from No. 8 and needed to birdie No. 13 to card a 71.
Superal also blew a solid two-under card after six holes with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 but the 19-year-old former US Girls’ Junior champion and groomed as the next Filipina to play on the LPGA Tour birdied No. 14 to join Rodriguez and top amateur Pauline del Rosario at second.
Del Rosario, who finished higher than Superal and Rodriguez at 13th in last week’s Thailand Ladies Masters, birdied the par-5 18th to join in the early mix of contenders in the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.
She joins Ikeda and Rodriguez in the featured threesome with Superal dropping to second-to-last with former TCC teammates Ilas and Fortuna.
Bernice Olivarez Ilas, Del Rosario’s teammate at Team The Country Club, charged back with two birdies in the last five holes to save a 72 as the young ace stayed on track for a second pro victory after winning the Beverly Place stop of the circuit in Pampanga last April.
Mikha Fortuna, another TCC mainstay and winner of a number of junior titles abroad, actually led the compact field with a superb three-under card after seven holes. But she failed to sustain her charge when the going got tough in wet condition, dropping three shots on the par-3 12th and then holing out with a bogey on the 17th to drop to 73.
Korean Euna Koh missed joining Fortuna at sixth with a late bogey and settled for a 74 while TCC’s Kayla Nocum birdied the 18th to tie last year’s leg winners Sarah Ababa and Fil-Am Cristina Corpus at 75.
Ababa, who won at Sherwood, rallied from a three-over card with back-to-back birdies from No. 12 but hobbled with a double-bogey on No. 14 while Corpus, who scored a breakthrough at Luisita, gunned down three birdies but made six birdies for a 37-38 card as the field battled two rain delays, a longer course and unpredictable putting surface.
Rodriguez, who dominated the first two seasons of the country’s first-ever ladies circuit before qualifying for the LPGA Tour, looked headed for a big finish after string three straight birdies coming off a missed green bogey on the first hole. But Superal, who parred the first four holes, gave chase with birdies on Nos. 5 and 6, only to fall back with a bogey on the seventh. She birdied the ninth but dropped shots on Nos. 10 and 11 before birdying the 15th.
Rodriguez recovered with a birdie on No. 13 but missed a couple of birdie chances in the last five holes to settle of a 71 while Ikeda recovered from a bogey-birdie, bogey-birdie roll at the front with two birdies at the back to seize the lead.