• Saso upstages pros, storms in front with 67

    Yuka Saso hits her approach shot on the opening hole. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Yuka Saso hits her approach shot on the opening hole. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Amateur Yuka Saso recovered from a bogey mishap on the 17th with a brilliant approach shot for a tap-in birdie on the finishing hole as she carded a four-under 67 and swept past a host of pros to wrest the lead in the second round of Manila Southwoods Ladies Classic at Southwoods’ Legends course in Carmona, Cavite on Wednesday.

    Saso bucked the gale-force wind in the early going with a birdie on No. 4 then flashed her familiarity with the bunker-laden layout she calls home with three birdies in the first five holes at the back before flubbing a six-foot par-putt bid on the par-5 17th.

    But she toughened up on the 18th, blasting a solid drive and hitting a superb wedge shot that landed two feet off the cup, highlighting a 34-33 card that shoved her from joint fifth to the top of the heap at six-under 136.

    “I did my best in every hole but I think I pushed myself too hard on No. 17. Otherwise, everything is okay,” said Saso, at 14 already a veteran of many international competitions, including the Queen Sirikit Cup last May, and trying to become the third amateur to win this year after Princess Superal at Wack Wack and Hwang Min Jeong at Mt. Malarayat.

    Mookharin Ladgratok turned from awesome to awful as the Thai bet, who took the opening round lead with a 66, reeled back with four bogeys with no birdie to show in a 75 round, tumbling down to eighth at 141, five strokes off Saso.

    But four players, including fellow Fil-Japanese Chihiro Ikeda, stood just a stroke adrift at 137 while Lovelynn Guioguio rallied with a 68 for a 139, ensuring a spirited battle for the top P100,000 purse in the final leg of the eight-stage Ladies Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

    Ikeda, the former amateur hotshot but still in search for a maiden win on the country’s first-ever ladies pro circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., came in ruffled by the wind that blew from all over and said she was lucky to have salvaged a one-under 70 card that kept her in the title hunt at 137.

    “The wind affected us right on the first hole and we had to make adjustments on club selection all throughout. It was difficult,” said Ikeda, a former SEA Games gold medalist.

    Thai Saraporn Chamchoi flashed top form in tough conditions, coming away with a bogey-free four-under 67 and joining Ikeda and Hwang at second heading to the final 18 holes of the P500,000 event backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

    Hwang, who humbled Cyna Rodriguez and Superal to reign at LPGT Malarayat last month, actually grabbed the solo lead with a two-under card for a six-under overall after 16 holes. But the 14-year-old mainstay of Riviera and Grade 9 student at Holy Infant School in Muntinlupa drove out of bounds on No. 17 and ended up with a double bogey, needing to match Saso’s closing birdie to save a 70 and stay in the title contention.

    Wannasiri Sirisampant, also of Thailand, leaned on a three-birdie binge from No. 4 and fired a 70 to like pool a 137 while Guioguio rattled off four birdies at the front to cushion the impact of a shaky 37 finish, shooting a 68 for a 139.

    Apple Fudolin also shot a 68 to move to solo seventh at 140, Jayvie Agojo finally hit her stride and fired a 69 for an even 142, while Sherwood leg winner Sarah Ababa continued to struggle with a second 72 for a 144 for joint 10th with Thai Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang and Korean Kim So Un, who had a 71 and 73, respectively.


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