MANILA, Philippines — Thai Pavarisa Yoktuan emerged from the shadows of her more illustrious compatriots to seize early control in the ICTSI Splendido Ladies Classic, shooting a three-under 69 and wresting a one-stroke lead over Dottie Ardina and Korean amateur Kim Hee Ji at the Splendido Taal Golf Club yesterday.
Yoktuan rode on a three-birdie binge from No. 9 and gunned down two more on Nos. 6 and 15 to negate her bogey mishaps on Nos. 8 and 13 and put her title bid in motion after an LPGT (Ladies Philippine Golf Tour)-best third place finish in last week’s ICTSI Eagle Ridge Ladies Invitational won by Chihiro Ikeda in a playoff.
Ardina actually looked headed for an explosive start and the early lead but the many-time LPGT winner blew a four-under card with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18, dropping her instead to joint second at 70 with Kim, who also squandered an impressive 34 start with a shaky finish marred by a bogey on the last hole.
Another Thai bet, Thanuttra Boonraksasat bounced back from an opening hole bogey with three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 10 but dropped a stroke on No. 14 and settled for a 71 for solo fourth in the fourth leg of this year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., which drew 39 players.
Kanyalak Preedasuttijit and Chatprapa Siriprakob, also of Thailand, carded identical 73s while reigning LPGT Order of Merit winner Pauline del Rosario groped for form coming off a successful stint in the chilly China LPGA Tour Qualifying last week.
Del Rosario, who won four LPGT legs in her rookie season last year and made the grade in the lucrative China circuit with a joint 15th place finish, failed to recover from her two bogeys in the first four holes, missing a couple of birdie putts but saving a number of pars to turn in a 74 for joint seventh with Thais Chonlada Chayanun and Thanya Pattamakijsakul, Korean amateur Hwang Min-jeong and Ikeda.
Chayanun, due for a big win after a number of runner-up finishes in the last five LPGT tournaments, hit two birdies but made two bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-5 No. 9; Pattamakijsakul missed snatching solo fourth with a double-bogey on the final hole; Hwang, also a former LPGT winner at Mt. Malarayat, stumbled with a rollercoaster round of four birdies against two bogeys and two double bogeys; while Ikeda fought back from a four-over card after 12 holes with three straight birdies from No. 13 but bogeyed the par-3 17th to drop to a share of seventh.
Thai Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, who won her last two LPGT tournaments, including the ICTSI Beverly Ladies Classic last month, also struggled coming off a layoff, fumbling with three bogeys in a birdie-less 75 that tied her former three-time LPGT OOM champion Cyna Rodriguez, who bogeyed two of the last three holes for a 36-39.
Princess Superal also wavered at the finish, holing out with back-to-back bogeys to slip to joint 14th at 76 with Thais Mookharin Ladgratoc and Saruttaya Ngam-usawan and Korean amateur Lee Ji-Hyeon, who lost to Ikeda in a three-hole playoff at Eagle Ridge in last week’s staging of the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZGm PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.