Late birdies net Ikeda one-shot lead

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Chihiro Ikeda and Jayvie Agojo switched places in the rain with the former leaning on late birdies to card a one-under 71 and snatch a one-stroke lead over the erstwhile leader in the second round of the P500,000 ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour at Riviera’s Couples layout in Silang, Cavite on Thursday.

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Ikeda, who blew a solid start with a shaky finish on Wednesday, hit back-to-back birdies from close range from No. 15—the first catching Agojo at the helm and the other netting her the lead at three-under 141.

“We kind of struggled because of the rain. But I hit it good approach shots to within four feet on Nos. 15 and 16,” said Ikeda. “But there’s still a lot of work to do to finally win here.”

Agojo, who grabbed a one-stroke lead over Ikeda with a 69 in the first round, kept her edge at the turn, dropped to a share of the lead after Ikeda birdied No. 10, but surged ahead again with a birdie on No. 12.

But after the duo fumbled with bogeys on No. 14, Ikeda tied Agojo then took control as the Fil-Japanese shotmaker moved 18 holes away from nailing a first victory on the country’s first ladies pro circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Agojo, also in the hunt for her first local pro win, slid to second at 142 after a 73 and went straight to the practice green to polish her stroke.

“Putting was the difference,” said Agojo caddie and former pro Tonton Asistio. “We made about 28 putts in the first round but we had two three-putts today [yesterday]. She really struggled on the greens.”

That should set the stage for a final round shootout between the fancied pair although a young Korean amateur threatened to spoil Ikeda and Agojo’s duel for the top P100,000 in the second leg of the eight-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Riviera’s Hwang Min Jeong, who carries a 0.4 handicap, failed to sustain a three-under card with three holes to go, dropping a stroke on the par-5 16th to settle for a two-under 70.

But counting her earlier 73, Hwang moved just two strokes behind Ikeda at 143, earning her a spot in the championship round of the event backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

Ikeda birdied No. 2 to tie Agojo but fell back with a missed-green, three-putt mishap for a double-bogey on the next only to bounce back with a six-foot birdie on No. 4. She, however, dropped another stroke on No. 8 to match Agojo’s opening 37 marred by bogeys on Nos. 5 and 9 against a birdie on No. 6.

Another Korean, pro Kwon Seo Yon also shot a 70 but stood five strokes behind at 146 while Anya Tanpinco turned in a second straight 74 for a 148 for joint fifth with Sarah Ababa, who stumbled with a 78.

Lovelynn Guioguio skied to a 79 for a 150 while Apple Fudolin recovered with a 75 for a 155, Lina de Guzman had a 77 for a 156 and amateur Ashia Nocum shot a 76 for a 157.

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