Dottie Ardina marked her return to the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour the way she left last year— in explosive fashion—as she fired a three-under 69 to seize a two-stroke lead over Lovelynn Guioguio at the start of the ICTSI Valley Golf Ladies Challenge at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo on Tuesday.
Ardina actually found her range, rhythm and touch late but took control of the stellar field just the same as she outplayed flightmate and four-leg winner Cyna Rodriguez with a blazing windup of three birdies in the last five holes for a 36-33 card at the soggy Executive Course.
Rodriguez, who had dominated the LPGT John Hay, Mt. Malarayat and Eagle Ridge legs with a winning average of eight strokes until she was stopped by Phalajivin at Splendido last month, kept Ardina in sight despite a 37 at the turn. But she struggled at the back with two bogeys in the first three holes, rebounded with a birdie on the 13th but holed out with another bogey for a 38 and a 75, dropping to ninth in her worst start on the tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
It was, however, a start expected of Ardina, who swept the first two legs in last year’s inaugurals of the country’s premier ladies tour before moving to the US to resume her LPGA Tour bid.
Honed and toughened up by her stint on the Symetra Tour in the US, Ardina birdied the opening hole but struggled just as quickly, baffled by the course’s muddy condition due to rain the past few days and slow putting surface, forcing the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. to apply winter rules. She dropped a stroke on the par-3 No. 3 on a three-putt miscue then settled for pars in the next 10 holes before birdying Nos. 14, 15 and 18 for that 33 and a 69.
“It’s tight and very challenging. But the greens are slow unlike in the US,” said Ardina. “But I think we all hit well although we struggled in putting.”
Taking her time in the last flight with Sylvia Torres and Korean amateur Min Jeong Hwang, Guioguio nearly matched Ardina’s explosive windup—a 34 and a 71 for solo second, just two shots behind Ardina.
Guioguio, whose best finish this year was fifth in the kickoff leg of the circuit, backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp, at Orchard, also ruled by Rodriguez, birdied the first two holes at the back to momentarily wrest the lead but turned in a rollercoaster finish of two bogeys against the same number of birdies for that 71.
Amateur Sofia Chabon, who showed up the pros in the first round of the ICTSI Splendido, looked headed for a repeat after birdying the first three holes in impressive fashion. But the top ICTSI-backed bet and winner of this year’s Royal Selangor Juniors title failed to sustain her charge, bogeying the two par-5s on Nos. 7 and 16 and No. 14 and hobbling with a 38 and a 72.
Still, Chabon took the third spot just three shots adrift as the rest struggled with over par cards with Splendido leg winner Amolkan Phalajivin of Thailand birdying No. 16 to save a 73.
Jayvie Agojo, winner of the second leg of the circuit at Riviera, recovered a bit from a shaky four-bogey start after six holes with four birdies against two more bogeys for a 74.
Other two over par scorers were Lucy Landicho and Hwang and fellow amateur Sam Bruce.
A big letdown was Rodriguez, who groped for form at the back and fell six strokes off Ardina while Mia Piccio also failed to live up to expectations after a poor start of 39 and limped with a four-over 76 marred by double-bogey on the par-3 12th for joint 10th with Anya Tanpinco, who made an 8 on No. 13.