Crack amateur Yuka Saso wavered a bit on the way home and landed in a three-way tie for the lead with pros Thanuttra Boonraksasat and Ploychompoo Wirairungreung in the ICTSI Greenfield Ladies Challenge in Calamba, Laguna, Wednesday.
Ahead after 10 holes, Saso bogeyed Nos. 11 and 13, the last resulting in a two-shot swing that enabled the Thais to catch up with her in the inaugural tournament of the 2018 Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
The 17-year-old Saso opened up with a bogey but canned four birdies in the next five, including three straight from the fourth hole. But the reigning national champion bobbled with back-to-back bogeys closing her frontside trip.
Saso, the 2016 World Junior Girls individual titlist who lifted the Philippines to the team title, recovered with a birdie on No. 10, only to drop strokes again and settled for a 35-37 card that lined her up for a second pro crown after topping LPGT Eagle Ridge in 2016.
“The wind blew from all over. It was so strong that I had to make a 3-club adjustment to play it through,” said Saso, whose cold putter gave her three-putt bogeys on Nos. 1 and 11.
Boonraksasat, who birdied the par-5 13th, and Wirairungreung, who birdied Nos. 13 and 17, salvaged 37-35 nines that kept Thailand’s bid for a third straight LPGT crown. Renuka Suksukont and Yupaporn Kawinpakorn swept the last two legs of the record 11-stage 2017 season at The Country Club and South Forbes, respectively.
“I played relatively good except for my putting,” said Boonraksasat, who like Saso had a couple of three-putt bogeys. “The greens are tricky, some are fast, some are slow.”
The troika led Pauline del Rosario and Thai Punpaka Phuntumabamrung by two shots going to the 54-hole event kicking off the 2018 LPGT season put up by ICTSI.
“It was really tough out there with the wind. But it’s not yet over and I hope to shoot a better score tomorrow (today),” said Del Rosario, the 2017 LPGT Order of Merit queen with four titles on her rookie season last year.
Del Rosario hit three birdies and as many bogeys but was pulled down by a double-bogey on No. 4.
Another Thai, Chonlada Chayanun, who is bidding to snap a string of runner-up finishes in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., stumbled with a triple-bogey, double-bogey windup on the frontside en route to a 75 and sixth spot.
Lodged at 76 were Saraporn Chamchoi and former LPGT leg winner Wannasiri Sirisampant. Pakpring Duangchan and Aunchisa Utama tallied 77s as the Thais dominated the Top 10 spots in the P750,000 event. —ROY LUARCA