TRECE MARTIRES, Cavite – Cyna Rodriguez went on an early birdie-binge to shoot a four-under 68 in windy condition, repelling Thai Amolkan Phalajivin and Jayvie Agojo’s token challenge but finding a slew of amateurs as her pursuers at the start of the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Championship at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club here Tuesday.
Reigning US Girls Junior champion Princess Superal overcame a two-over card after five holes with four birdies in the last 13 holes to fire a two-under 70 and lead five other amateurs chasing Rodriguez as the pros either stumbled in tough condition or in poor form in the P750,000 event serving as the final leg of the eight-stage ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
Pauline del Rosario, Superal’s teammate at ICTSI stable and in the Asian Games squad and the team that won the Santi Cup in Brunei, birdied the 18th to card a one-under 71 for solo third while Sam Martirez and Korean Seong Eun Jeong matched par 72s and Sofia Chabon, another amateur from Team ICTSI, turned in a 73 for solo sixth.
Anya Tanpinco, the former amateur standout, emerged as the next best-placed pro at 74, tying amateurs Yuka Saso and Harmie Constantino as Phalajivin, who stopped Rodriguez’s three-win run with a victory at LPGT Splendido last September, hobbled with six bogeys with only a birdie to show for a 77.
“I’ll try to give chase and put myself within the top three in the final round,” said Tanpinco, who hit two birdies against four bogeys.
Agojo, who won the second leg at Riviera, hit two birdies but fumbled with six bogeys and a double-bogey and limped with a 78, 10 strokes off Rodriguez, who bucked the early morning gusts and rattled off three-straight birdies from No. 3 to wrest control.
“It’s oddly windy in the morning and that altered some of our shots,” said Rodriguez, who gunned down two more birdies at the back to negate a missed-green bogey on No. 13.
A cinch to keep the Order of Merit crown in the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. with four victories, Rodriguez is out to cap her dominant campaign with another victory worth P150,000 this week.
“This is a nice way to begin the tournament. But nobody wins in the first round. I have to target birdies in the last two days and press on with my good game,” she added.
But Superal is also expected to press her bid, along with the six other amateurs, ensuring a tight battle for top honors in the 54-hole event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.
“The course is pretty long and I need to improve on my short game and putting to contend,” said Superal, aiming to duplicate her record win in the final leg of the circuit’s inaugurals in Baguio last year where she routed the pro field with a record bogey-free 17-under 190 total for an eight-shot romp over Chihiro Ikeda.
The title-hungry Ikeda had an even par card after eight holes but reeled back with four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch and needed to birdie the par-3 17th to salvage a 75 for a share of 10th with Apple Fudolin and Lovelynn Guioguio.
Abby Arevalo, the other amateur from Team ICTSI, birdied Nos. 10 and 12 to bounce back to a one-over card but made a triple-bogey on No. 13 and wound up with a 76 in a tie with Sarah Ababa, while Korean amateur Hwang Min Jeong birdied three of the last six holes against a bogey for a 77 to join Phalajivin at 15th.