Princess Superal upstaged Frankie Miñoza and Angelo Que in one of the featured flights with a bogey-free three-under 67 in windy condition, wresting a one-stroke lead over the big-hitting pair of Rey Pagunsan and Orlan Sumcad at the start of the P5 million The Country Club Invitational at the TCC layout in Canlubang on Thursday.
Though the reigning SEA Games gold medalist fashioned out her 33-34 round off the white mound, Superal still impressed her fancied flightmates and the elite field with her solid game despite adverse playing condition at the tough, well-kept layout that played a lot longer as a par-70 course.
“She’s good. What impressed me most was that she never got into trouble despite the strong wind,” said Que, a three-time winner here who settled for a one-over 71 for joint seventh in the P5 million event staged in honor of ICTSI founder Enrique “Don Pocholo” Razon Sr.
Miñoza, who nipped brothers Jay and Rufino Bayron to nail his first TCC Invitational crown last year, wavered at the finish, dropping three strokes in the last three holes, including a double bogey mishap on the treacherous par-4 No. 18 and limped with a 73.
“She’s very good. She’s a thinking player, Every shot for her is important,” said Minoza of the spearhead of Team ICTSI, who birdied Nos. 5 and 7 and the long No. 10, which used to be a par-5 hole.
Ranged against the former and current stars of Philippine pro golf, Superal, who accounted for nearly half of the ICTSI team’s 28 victories here and abroad last year, showed top form off the tee all the way to the green and flashed superb putting, sinking birdies from 14 feet on Nos. 5 and 7 and knocking down another from the 10th fringe.
“It’s very inspiring to play with Kuya Frankie and Angel. I learned a lot from there,” said the 16-year-old Superal, also a silver medalist in last year’s Asian Youth Games.
Her superb round also relegated Pagunsan and Sumcad’s pair of two-under 68s with the duo banking on early birdies to build an early one-stroke cushion over reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuña.
“My ball striking is good and made some good recoveries,” said the title-hungry Pagunsan, who birdied Nos. 1, 4 and 5 inside 8 feet to negate a bogey on the par-5 No. 2, in Pilipino. “It also helped that I didn’t make any three-putt given the speed of the surface.”
Sumcad, also out to end a long spell, also birdied Nos. 1, 4 and 5 to make the turn at three-under. But the long-hitting pro sputtered with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 12 and needed to birdie the par-5 14th to stay abreast with Pagunsan.
Lascuña, seeking his second TCC crown in 10 years, went one-under at the back where he teed off. But the ace Davaoeño shotmaker flubbed a couple of birdie chances at the front and settled for a 69 for solo fourth.
Jhonnel Ababa made a hot start of 33 but fumbled with two bogeys at the back and dropped to joint fifth with Mars Pucay, who also had two birdies and two bogeys, at even 70.
Cassius Casas, the inaugural champion in 2003, joined Que at seventh with a 71 along with Michael Bibat and Zanie Boy Gialon while Anthony Fernando and Jay Bayron carded identical 72s.
Miguel Tabuena floundered coming home at the front, making a double-bogey on No. 4 and a bogey on the next as he dropped to 73 in a tie with Jessie Balasabas while Miñoza fell to joint 15th with Ferdie Aunzo and lady amateur Pauline del Rosario, also a member of Team ICTSI who bagged the 13-14 crown in last year’s Junior World in San Diego.