Top amateur Yuka Saso gets the chance to slug it out with the cream of the local pro crop in a field spiced up by a number of Thai aces as the ICTSI Ayala Greenfield Ladies Challenge unfolds today in Calamba, Laguna.
Saso, who posted a near-sweep of the country’s major amateur titles last year, including the Philippine Amateur Stroke and Match Play crowns, actually heads an eight-player amateur cast, all raring to show up and crowd the fancied pros for the crown in the 54-hole championship kicking off this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by ICTSI.
They include former Junior World champion Daniella Uy, Chanelle Avaricio, Laia Barro, Marianne Bustos, Sam Dizon, Baek Yeun Jea and the comebacking Sam Martirez.
The 17-year-old Saso, who also won the World Junior Girls title and led the Philippines to the team championship in Canada in 2016, is gunning for her second pro title after winning the LPGT Eagle Ridge plum in 2016 although the talented Fil-Japanese shotmaker faces tall odds this time given the depth of the competing pro field at the wind-raked Ayala Greenfield course.
LPGA and Symetra Tour campaigner Dottie Ardina headlines the elite cast that includes Cyna Rodriguez and Princess Superal, who also campaign in the Symetra Tour, and LPGT leg winners Chihiro Ikeda, Sarah Ababa and Korean Euna Koh.
Pauline del Rosario, fresh from her LPGT Order of Merit romp with a four-victory feat in her rookie season, is also keen on launching her campaign on a winning note while raring to make up for her so-so showing in the 2017 season-ending tournament at South Forbes two weeks ago.
But the local aces will be in for a tough outing against the Thai shotmakers out to extend their domination of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The Thais swept the last two legs of the just-concluded LPGT fifth season with the likes of Saraporn Chamchoi, Tiranan Yoopan, Chonlada Chayanun and former leg winners Saruttaya Ngam-usawan and Wannasiri Sirisampant all eager to follow up compatriots Renuka Suksukont and Yupaporn Kawinpakorn’s victories at Philippine Ladies Masters and South Forbes, respectively.
Other Thais vying in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf are Numa Gulyanamitta, Pakpring Duangchan, Chitawadee Duangchan, Hathaikarn Wongwaikijphaisal, Jaruporn P Na Ayuttaya, Ploychompoo Wilairungrueng, Punpaka Phuntumabamrung, Sarinee Thitiratanakorn, Supakchaya Pattaranakrueng and Thanuttra Boonraksasat.