GOLF

Thai bucks heat, wind, leads by 1

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Thai Kanphannitnan Muankhumsakul defied gusty wind that lashed the course all day, birdying three of the last six holes to fire a three-under 69 and seize a one-stroke lead over Mia Piccio at the start of the $75,000 ICTSI Champion Tour at Splendido in Tagaytay on Wednesday.

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The 18-year-old ace from Bangkok gunned down four birdies inside eight feet to negate a missed-green bogey on No. 12 as she turned in a 35-34 to wrest the lead from Mia Piccio, who shot six birdies but settled for a 70 on a hot but blustery day.

“I played pretty good today. My putting and irons were simply good,” said Muankhumsakul, who also campaigned in Morocco, Abu Dhabi and India.

Piccio, the Symetra Tour veteran also seeking her first victory on the LPGT, looked headed for a big start and the early lead in the 54-hole championship presented by Champion as she gunned down three birdies against a bogey at the back for a 36-34 card but failed to match the Bangkok lass’ fiery windup.

Thai Kanphannitnan Muankhumsakul flashes awesome off the No. 10 mound. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“The wind was really strong and I’m lucky made good,” said the 18-year-old Muangkhumsakul, who placed third here last year topped by Korean Lee Jeong-hwa.

Piccio also expressed satisfaction over her round given the exacting condition at the Greg Norman-designed layout with only four players breaking par and three carding even par 72s.

“The win really blew hard from the start and I was also lucky to have shot a 71,” said Piccio.

Pauline Del Rosario marked her pro debut in style, birdying three of the first five holes to wrest early control. But the former amateur hotshot slowed down with a rollercoaster stint in the next nine holes marred by a triple-bogey on the par-3 12th and a bogey on the next. Del Rosario, however, bounced back with back-to-back birdies from No. 15 and finished with a 71 in a tie with Taiwanese Yeh Hsin-ning, who also sizzled with three birdies in the first five holes but fumbled with a bogey and a double-bogey at the back, needing to birdie the 18th to save a 33-38 card.

Save for Muangkhumsakul, majority of the stellar 70-player field, that included nine amateurs, turned in roaring starts only to falter as the wind whipped up from mid-noon to the finish, keeping the next 13 players within striking distance of the leader at the end of the day.

Amateur Yuka Saso also went three-under after 10 holes but the reigning World Junior Girls champion stumbled with a double-bogey on the par-5 11th and dropped another stroke on the next to settle for a 72 in joint fifth with Thais Thanuttra Boonraksasat, who fought back with two late birdies for a 38-34, and Titiya Plucksataporn, who had two birdies against two bogeys.

Cyna Rodriguez, who dominated the first three seasons of the country’s premier circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., groped for form with a two-bogey, one-birdie stint, her 73 dropping her to a share of ninth with former LPGT leg winner Sarah Ababa, Japanese Mika Nagaishi, Thai Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro and Taiwanese amateur Hung Jo-hua.

Some of the fancied bets, however, struggled from start to finish in windy condition and fell way behind the leader, including former leg champion Wannasiri Sirisampant of Thailand, who hobbled with a 74 in a tie with Taiwan top player Chen Yu-ju, Lee Hsin and amateur Chen Hsuan, also of Taiwan; last year’s LPGT Royal Northwoods titlist Saruttaya Ngam-usawan, who limped with a 76; many-time LPGT leg winner and former US Girls’ Junior winner Princess Superal, who faltered with a 77; and Symetra Tour veteran and former LPGA campaigner Dottie Ardina, who shot herself in the foot with an 80 in a round marred by three double bogeys.

Ardina stood at joint 49th, 11 shots off Muangkhumsakul and barely within the cut-off line of top 50 after 36 holes of the event backed by ICTSI, BDO, Champion, Custom Clubmakers, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Titleist and Event Captain.

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