Superal pulls off thriller in 4-man playoff

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Princess Superal beams as she holds her first pro championship trophy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Princess Superal beams as she holds her first pro championship trophy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Princess Superal birdied the first playoff hole from 12 feet to edge Thais Aunchia Utama and Ajira Nualraksa and former teammate Pauline del Rosario and complete a dream pro debut in the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Classic at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Thursday.

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Superal lost an early two-stroke lead as she lost her putting touch then rallied from two down on a lost ball on No. 12 with a clutch birdie on No. 16 to scramble for a 72 and force a playoff with the Thais and Del Rosario, who all put in under-par cards, at four-under 212s.

Utama fought back from four down to tie Del Rosario on top with back-to-back birdies from No. 14 but bogeyed the 17th and finished with a 68, while Nualraksa wrested the lead with a solid 32 start but dropped three strokes in the first two holes at the back and needed to birdie No. 15th to shoot a 70 and gain a crack at the crown.

Del Rosario worked her way up with a stirring birdie-birdie-eagle feat from No. 12, moving from three-down to two-up and appeared headed for a romp with four holes to go. But the spearhead of Team The Country Club hit an errant drive on No. 18, struggled to reach the green and wound up with bogey for a 69, setting the stage for a four-player playoff.

But Superal picked herself up in sudden death back on No. 18, coming away with two brilliant shots, then banging in that gem of a putt that shattered Nualraksa’s confidence as the Thai lost her poise and missed extending the match from eight feet.

The two others actually made it in regulation but Utama’s birdie bid from long range fell short and Del Rosario, who putted next, flubbed her try from afar before Superal, figuring the slope and the speed needed a couple of times, rolled in the clincher that proved too much for Nualraksa to overcome.

“I feel very happy. Though I missed a couple of putts early, I still found a way to win,” said Superal, basking in glory as she received her first pro trophy and check worth P150,000 in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.

“This win means a lot to me,” said the 19-year-old ace, who recently finished tied for second in Stage I of the LPGA Qualifying School. “I really did my best to win.”

All the others also did their best to spoil her pro debut but Superal proved steadier than the rest in the end.

“Princess has been through a lot of tough challenges as an amateur but this one is different. She was vying not just for a championship. But she handled herself well and rode through the pressure. This win should put her in good stead in her future tournaments,” said Superal coach Bong Lopez.

After birdying three of the first five holes to go 2-up, Superal said she lost her rhythm and touch and made back-to-back bogeys from No. 5. She dropped another stroke on No. 11 and bogeyed the par-5 12th after losing her ball on a wild drive to the right, casting doubts on making it to the podium on her first try.

“But I told myself to relax and take in one shot at a time and luckily, I was able to regain by bearing and confidence after I birdied No. 16,” said Superal, who has won three tournaments as an amateur in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, inc.

Utama and Nualraksa split the combined second and third prizes worth P155,000 while Del Rosario settled for a trophy after blowing the chance to become the fourth amateur to win this year after TCC teammate Bernice Olivarez-Ilas at Beverly Place, Yuka Saso at Eagle Ridge and Harmie Constantino at Mt. Malarayat.

Seven players actually earned a stab at glory heading to the closing holes, making it the most tightly fought tournament in four years of the country’s first-ever ladies pro circuit. LPGA veteran Cyna Rodriguez moved to within two with a birdie on No. 10 but reeled back with a double-bogey on the par-5 15th; Thai Chatprapa Siriprakob birdied No. 15 to likewise pull within two but bogeyed two of the last three; and former leg winner Jayvie Agojo birdied Nos. 10 and 15 to also close in within a couple of shots but holed out with a double-bogey.

Siriprakob ended up with a 75 and placed fifth at 215 and took P52,000 while Rodriguez finished with a 73 and Agojo hobbled with a 74 to wind up tied at sixth at 216. They shared the combined P87,000 prize.

Amateur Mikha Fortuna of Team The Country Club fought back with a 71 to salvage solo eighth at 223 while last year’s Mt. Malarayat leg winner amateur Hwang Min Jeong of Korea matched par 72 and tied recent Orchard leg champion Chihiro Ikeda, who carded a 73, at ninth at 224.

Other backers of the seventh leg of the circuit were Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.

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