Korean rallies, nips Del Rosario in playoff

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Korean Euna Koh battled back from five shots down, blew a two-stroke lead late in regulation but birdied the first playoff hole to upend Pauline del Rosario and snare the ICTSI Luisita Ladies Challenge in sweltering condition at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Thursday.

Koh, 18, bucked the heat, hunger and Del Rosario’s fightback with a superb pitching wedge shot from 120 yards that landed four feet off the cup in their sudden death on No. 18 and calmly drilled in the putt after the Filipina ace flubbed her birdie bid from eight feet.

Korean Euna Koh hoists her trophy after nailing her breakthrough victory in the Ladies PGT with a playoff win over Pauline del Rosario in the ICTSI Luisita Challenge. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“I was shaking because I’m hungry but I was happy to have pulled it off,” said the 18-year-old shotmaker from Gwangju and a mainstay at Riviera in Silang, Cavite who ended a string of poor finishes in the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Tour with a P250,000 victory.

She overhauled Del Rosario’s huge five-shot lead in a flight head with a remarkable 35 at the front but needed to toughen up in the last two holes after failing to clinch it in regulation with a bogey on No. 16 for a 72.

Del Rosario birdied that par-5 hole for a crucial two-shot swing and matched Koh’s pars in the last two to card a 77 and force a playoff at six-over 222 in the third leg of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Tour.

It was a sorry setback for the 17-year-old Del Rosario, who had looked forward to scoring a breakthrough win in just her third pro tournament after surging to a four-stroke lead over Thai Numa Gulyanamitta and five clear of Koh after the second round of the 54-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Del Rosario, who finished tied at 15th at ICTSI Champion Tour Mt. Malarayat after an impressive joint runner-up feat at Splendido, both legs of the Taiwan LPGA Tour, settled for P120,000.

Nemittra Juntanaket also birdied No. 16 to save a 75 and tied fellow Thai Gulyanamitta, who turned in a 76, at third at 225 worth P80,500 each while Indonesian Jessica Lydia rallied with a 74 to place solo fifth at 227 and pocket P65,000.

Nimmitta Juntanaket signed a second straight 78 for sixth at 228 while last year’s Orchard leg winner Chihiro Ikeda rebounded with a 72 to finish seventh at 229 followed by Thai Jaruporn Palakawongnaayuttawa (76-230), 2015 winner Cristina Corpus (77-232) and Apple Fudolin (74-232), and 2015 Sherwood leg champion Sarah Ababa (81-238) and Thai Janjira Tiensa-ard (79-238).

Del Rosario came out brimming with confidence after storming to a huge second round lead but after a regulation par on the first hole, she struggled with her irons and putting, dropping a stroke on No. 2 then fumbling with three straight bogeys from No. 5.

But while Gulyanamitta failed to pounce in with her up-and-down round of 38, the Korean gamely took up the challenge, mixing three birdies with two bogeys in a five-hole stretch from No. 2 then came through with pars to catch Del Rosario at five-over overall after 9 holes.

A double-bogey mishap by the Filipina and a par by Koh shoved the latter to the top and the Korean kept her two-stroke lead with gutsy pars in the next six holes before missing the green on No. 16 and flubbed a par putt from short range.

In contrast, Del Rosario atoned for her earlier miscues with a clutch birdie before the duo parred the last two to set up the sudden death in the P1 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.

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