Two-time LPGA Tour winner Jennifer Rosales skipped yesterday’s pro-am but didn’t avoid being tagged as the player to beat in the 70-player field slugging it out in the rich ICTSI Ladies Open beginning today at Southlinks Golf Club in Las Piñas.
Rosales, in her first competitive tournament here in nearly two decades, opted to rest on Tuesday after testing the par-72 layout Monday then declared she’s ready for the $75,000 event, starting with her 8 a.m. flight with Thailand’s Amolkan Phalajivin and Taiwanese Chen Szu-Han on No. 1.
“I’m ready and I hope to have a good start although the course looks daunting and the field appears to be talent-laden. So it’s going to be tough out there,” said Rosales, whose mere presence is expected to further boost the country’s first-ever ladies pro tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
In fact, the 54-hole tournament, the kickoff leg of this year’s ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, serves as the fourth stage of the 20-leg Taiwan LPGA circuit, thus drawing a slew of foreign players from Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and the US.
“It’s good that we have plenty of them (foreign players). That should motivate the Filipina players to play more intense and they should be on their toes always,” added Rosales.
Worth watching is Tiffany Tavee, who lost in a playoff to Thai Nontaya Srisawang in Taiwan LPGA’s third leg—the Grand Royal Open—last month. The American drew another Taiwanese Chuang Hsin-yun and Filipina amateur Mikaela Fortuna in the 7:25 a.m. flight on No. 10.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Liang Yi-ling served notice of her title bid as she powered her team composed of Butch Santos, Jops Melrosa and Tess Yap to pro-am victory with a 14-under 58. Phalajivin, who won the LPGT Splendido crown last year, teamed up with Louie Bustamante, Zardi Abellera and Roberto Reyes as they placed second with a 59 while Sarah Ababa, along with teammates Nicer Landas, Bong Arguelles and Ginelyn Hepoit, finished third with a 61.
Lee Jeong-hwa also guns for her second local crown after ruling the Philippine Ladies Open in 2012 with the Korean ace grouped with Chen I-wen of Taiwan and amateur Yuka Saso in the 7:55 a.m. flight, also at the backside of the challenging layout.
Focus will also be on Dottie Ardina, raring to make it four-of-four on the LPGT after dominating the Country Club and Canlubang in the circuit’s inaugurals in 2013 and the Valley stage last year. The Symetra Tour campaigner is set to start at 7:30 a.m. on No. 1 with Thai Thanuttra Boonraksasast and Taiwan’s Lio Ching-ju.
Mia Piccio, who also campaigns on the Symetra Tour, is also in the fold, drawing Thai Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul and Yeh Hsin-ning of Taiwan in the 8:10 a.m. group on No. 1 while back-to-back LPGT Order of Merit champion Cyna Rodriguez opens her drive for a third straight crown in the next flight at 8:20 a.m. along with Taiwan’s Huang Pei-weh and Hathaikarn Wongwaikijphaisal of Thailand.
Reigning US Girls Junior champion Princess Superal is also fancied to crowd the pros for top honors in the event co-organized by the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, INc. and Taiwan LPGA with the 18-year-old shotmaker, who racked up 12 victories here and abroad last year, facing Thai Sarauttaya Ngam-usawan and Taiwan’s Lee Tai-Ling in the 7:50 a.m. flight on No. 1.
Others vying in the tournament, backed by Nike, Sharp and Custom Clubmakers, are LPGT leg winner Jayvie Agojo, former SEA Games gold medalist Chihiro Ikeda, Malaysians Ainil Bakar and Aretha Pan, Great Britain’s Sarah Henderson, Singapore’s Christabel Goh, Grace Lee of Korea, and Japan’s Kumi Uchiyama and Mayumi Chinzei.