Renuka Suksukont bucked a triple-bogey miscue on No. 9 and pulled through in a nerve-wracking backside duel with fellow Thai Chayanun Chonlada to capture the ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters crown by two on a closing 72 at The Country Club here in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Saturday.
On the brink of blowing an overnight four-stroke lead with nine holes to play, Suksukont toughened up and fired back-to-back birdies to open her backside bid then pounced on Chonlada’s bogey-bogey mishap from No. 15 to complete a wire-to-wire victory in her maiden stint in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.
“This (win) is memorable because I made it on my first try,” said Suksukont, a Phatum Thani native who pooled a five-under 211 and took the top purse of $12,000 while leading an impressive Thai sweep of the top three places in the $80,000 event co-sanctioned by China and Taiwan LPGA Tours and Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
It was also Suksukont’s first victory on the China LPGA Tour after posting six Top 10 finishes.
“I really didn’t expect to win given the quality of the competition but I did it,” said Suksukont, who also kept the crown which compatriot Saranporn Langkulgasettrin won over Princess Superal last year.
The 24-year-old Chonlada gunned down two birdies in a solid frontside stint and tied Suksukont at three-under overall after the latter triple-bogeyed No. 9 following a birdie on No. 8 for a 38, setting the stage for a backside shootout between the two Thai aces.
Make it three as Ploychompoo Wirairungreung rallied from seven down to within one off Suksukont with a scorching six-under card after 14 holes. But she bogeyed the par-3 17th and finished with a 67, sharing runner-up honors with Chonlada, who wound up with a 70, at 213.
Suksukont nearly blew it after a struggle on the ninth fairway softened by overnight rains where she needed two extra shots to reach the green. Two-up with two holes to go, she dumped her 9-iron tee-shot on the par-3 17th and needed two blasts to get out.
But on both occasions, she didn’t crumble and instead struck back with clutch birdies, including the difficult closing hole, frustrating Chonlada no end.
Korean Hwang Min-jeong birdied the final hole to card a 71 and snatch fourth place at 215, nipping Yuka Saso for low amateur honors in China LPGA’s first overseas event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Thanuttra Boonraksasat shot a 70 and placed fifth at even 216, capping Thailand’s domination of the event which served as the penultimate leg of a record 11-stage LPGT.
With Chihiro Ikeda, who co-shared the lead late in the second round en route to a 70, losing her putting touch and poise when it mattered most, Saso rebounded from a horrible 77 in the second round, ramming in five birdies at the front to rally from nine down to within two with nine holes to play.
But the young Fil-Japanese wavered at the back, fumbling with two bogeys against a lone birdie for a 69 and a 217. She ended up tied for sixth with Hsieh Yu-Ling of Taiwan and Chinese Zhang Jienalin, who matched par 72s.
Ikeda faltered with four bogeys in a birdie-less 76 and wound up joint 12th at 219 with Taiwanese amateur Hung Jo-hua (75), Thai Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang (73) and Chinese Li Xiya (72).
Superal finally broke par with three birdies in the last six holes but her closing 69 could only net her a joint 17th place finish at 220 while Pauline del Rosario squandered a three-under card after 11 holes with five bogeys in the last seven holes. She wound up with a third straight 74 for 23rd place at 222.
Cyna Rodriguez matched par 72 and tied for 24th with Thais Mookharin Ladgratok (70) and Numa Gulyanamitta (76) at 223 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.