Villacencio wards off Superal, clings to 1-shot

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Gretchen Villacencio bucked Princess Superal’s solid start with an eagle-spiked two-under 70 then pounced on her fancied rival’s late miscues to regain a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the ICTSI Riviera Ladies Classic at Riviera’s Couples course in Silang, Cavite on Thursday.

Villacencio, who surprised the compact field with a lead-grabbing 69 Wednesday, reeled back as Superal opened with back-to-back birdies to storm ahead and stayed in front until she stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 for a second 70, enabling the former to move in front again at 139.

“I’ve been playing pretty well – from driving, irons and putting,” said Villacencio, despite missing five fairways and three greens. She highlighted her 35-35 card with an eagle on the par-5 No. 7 off a solid 240-yard drive and a superb rescue shot that sailed over 220 yards and landed six feet off the cup.

She bogeyed the next but recovered the stroke with a birdie on No. 13 before watching Superal stumble at the finish for that 70 and a 140.


Gretchen Villacencio watches her putt roll in on No. 4. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“I know she’ll (Superal) bounce back tomorrow (today). But I’ll be ready and will just try to enjoy my game to ease up the pressure,” said Villacencio, who honed her talent and skills at the Fernando Airbase in Lipa, Batangas.

Superal pressed her bid for a second straight Ladies Philippine Golf Tour crown with those early birdies and held sway with two more birdies on Nos. 7 and 12, only to slip back with late bogeys.

But despite her shaky finish, she remained confident of nailing another crown with Cyna Rodriguez likewise moving into contention with the day’s best 69 that put her within two off Villacencio at 141 for a crack at the top P150,000 purse in the event sponsored by ICTSI.

Rodriguez, three behind Villacencio at the start of the day, birdied Nos. 2 and 3 then added another on No. 14 while parring the rest to complete a bogey-free round that could hint at a big finish for the former three-time Order of Merit winner.

Korean amateur Kim Hee Ji, who matched Superal’s opening 70, birdied No. 2 but tumbled down with a two-bogey on No. 7, which she eagled in the first round. She would up with a 73 and dropped to fourth at 143 in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Hwang Min-jeong, the other Korean amateur and one of the pre-tournament favorites after dominating the Philippine Amateur Open here last January, hardly recovered from an opening 76 with a 71 as she joined Chihiro Ikeda and Filipino amateurs Mafy Singson and Missy Legaspi at fifth at 147.

Ikeda, winner at Eagle Ridge last month, also carded an eagle-spiked 71, Singson rallied with a 70 while Legaspi struggled with a 76.

Marvin Monsalve carded a 73 to tie Korean amateur Bang Choeun, who skied to a 76, at 148 heading to the last 18 holes of the sixth leg of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZGm PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.

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