Thai Wannasiri Sirisampant toughened up at the backside of the Forest Hills’ Palmer layout and took charge with a 70 as Chihiro Ikeda fumbled at the finish for a 72 at the start of the ICTSI Forest Hills Ladies Challenge in Antipolo on Wednesday.
Sirisampant, who marked her debut in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with a victory at Southwoods in 2015, gunned down four birdies against two bogeys in scorching heat at the front then salvaged pars from the roughs in the last nine holes to seize a two-stroke lead over Ikeda and compatriot Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang
“I hardly had trouble except some shots into the rough,” said the 26-year-old Sirisampant. “But I have to maintain my grip and posture in the next two days.”
Ikeda, chasing a follow-up to her breakthrough win at Orchard last year, actually took the cudgels for the local bets as Pauline del Rosario and Symetra Tour campaigners Cyna Rodriguez and Mia Piccio groped for form, birdying three of the first 11 holes to storm ahead. But the Fil-Japanese shotmaker, who lost by six to Sirisampant two years ago, bogeyed No. 13, dropped two strokes on No. 13 then holed out with a bogey that negated her birdie on the par-5 14th and fell by two with a 72.
Pattaranakrueang tied her at second after rebounding from a disastrous 39 start with a late flourish, rattling off four birdies against a bogey at the demanding backside of the par-72 layout.
Del Rosario, winner of three of the last four legs of the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Touraments, Inc., barely recovered from a two-bogey mishap after five holes with birdies on Nos. 6 and 8 as she dropped two strokes on the par-3 12th for solo fourth at 74, four shots off Sirisampant.
Mookharin Ladgratok birdied the last hole to save a 75 as the Thais threatened to dominate the P750,000 event serving as the eighth leg of the 10-stage tour backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.
Rodriguez, who dominated the first three seasons of the circuit before moving to the LPGA Tour and then to Symetra Tour, never recovered from a four-over card after 13 holes. She closed out with a birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-par card to fall to sixth at 76.
Amolkan Phalajivin, back in the local circuit after a long absence, hit two birdies but stumbled with five bogeys and two double-bogeys for a 79 that dropped the 2014 champion at Splendido to seventh, a stroke ahead of another Thai Tiranan Yoopan, who birdied the last for an 80.
Piccio, coming off a joint 40th finish in the LPGA Q-School Stage to gain a spot in the Final Stage, bounced back from a bogey-start with three birdies in the next seven holes. But she lost her touch and focus in the last 10 holes, triple-bogeying the par-5 ninth and closing out the backside with a woeful 46, marred by four double bogeys.