• Strong-starting Thai upstages Superal, leads by 1

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    Chatprapa Siriprakob of Thailand put on a solid start to cushion the impact of a faltering windup, carding a three-under 69 and wresting a one-stroke lead over Princess Superal at the start of the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Classic at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Tuesday.

    Siriprakob, bidding to become the fourth Thai player to win on the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, sizzled early with three birdies in the first four holes then threatened to pull away with two more birdies on Nos. 9 and 11 as the majority of the compact field, including the country’s aces, struggled despite ideal condition with the dreaded Sherwood wind at manageable level.

    But just when she thought she had the par-72 course all figured out, Siriprakob, who finished tied for third at LPGT Eagle Ridge last May and placed sixth in the last leg at Mt. Malarayat, stumbled with a double bogey on the par-5 12th, rebounded with a birdie on No. 14 but dropped another stroke on the tough No. 17th.

    Still, her 32-37 card put her on top of the field in the P750,000 championship serving as the seventh leg of the LPGT put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

    “I had a great time playing today (yesterday). I really enjoyed it and looking forward to the next two rounds,” said the 24-year-old Siriprakob, who drove into the water on No. 12th and ended up with a 7 and then holed out with a three-putt miscue on the 17th.

    Unlike Siriprakob, Superal bogeyed the first two holes in a fumbling pro debut for one of the best players to have come out of the ranks that surprised all but her coach.

    “It was jitters, which is but normal for debuting pros who pack so much expectations. But it won’t take time before she recovers,” said Bong Lopez, the man at the helm ICTSI ladies golf program.

    Superal didn’t fail her mentor as the 19-year-old former US Girls’ Junior champion came through with a pair of back-to-back birdies from Nos. 4 and 10 then banged in a six-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th to go three-under. But she fell short on her approach shot on the long par-4 18th and made a poor chip shot for bogey and settled for a 70.

    “I’m happy and satisfied with my game. But I could’ve shot lower if not for my missed birdie chances from close range,” said Superal, who won three LPGT titles as an amateur to go with a number of feats here and abroad, including this year’s Philippine Ladies Open and the Hong Kong Amateur Ladies Open.

    She vowed to do better on the greens in the last two days and hopefully put herself in contention for the top P150,000 purse in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.

    “I need to adjust the speed on my putts and the game plan is to hit the fairways and greens then try to come up with more birdies,” said Superal, who faces an acid test against Siriprakob and another Thai in Aunchisa Utama in today’s featured flight.

    “I’m looking forward to having another good round with Princess tomorrow (today). But I need to stay focused and enjoy what I did today,” said Siriprakob.

    Utama hit two birdies against a bogey to shoot a 71, the same output put in by amateur Pauline del Rosario of The Country Club, who gunned down six birdies but made two double-bogeys and a bogey.

    Jayvie Agojo and Lina de Guzman matched par 72s while LPGA Tour veteran Cyna Rodriguez groped for form and turned in a two-bogey, one-birdie effort for a 73 for joint seventh with former leg winner Sarah Ababa and Thai Ajira Nualraksa.

    Eva Miñoza fought back from an opening 40 with a closing 35 for 75 for joint 10th with Anya Tanpinco while this year’s Orchard leg winner Chihiro Ikeda wavered with a birdie-less 76 in a tie with Thai Amolkan Phalajivin, Lovelyn Guioguio and amateur Sofia Chabon.

    Phalajivin bounced back from a bogey-par-bogey start with birdies on Nos. 4 and 8 but she dropped three strokes on the par-4 13th and made a double-bogey on the 17th before holing out with a birdie for a 36-40 card.

    “I had little hiccups at the backnine, had two lost balls and one in the water. But I must say it was still a good day for me,” said Phalajivin, the first Thai to win on the LPGT when she upended Rodriguez in the Splendido leg in 2014 before Wichanee Meechai and Wannasiri Sirisampant followed suit at Splendido and Southwoods last year.

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