Piccio joins chase as LPGT Valley unwraps



Mia Piccio joins returning former national teammate Dottie Ardina in the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, further bolstering the cast and tightening up the title race in the ICTSI Valley Golf Ladies Challenge, which unfolds Tuesday at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo.

Piccio, 23, is priming up for the LPGA Final Stage in December after turning in a joint 59th place effort in the second stage in Florida two weeks ago and her presence, together with that of Ardina, makes the penultimate stage of the eight-leg circuit worth watching.

The Bacolod native has built enough confidence and momentum heading to the 54-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after posting her maiden pro win in the recent Oca Augas Santas International Open in Spain, a leg of the LET Access Tour, the developmental circuit of the Ladies European Tour.

But she will be as much tested as the rest of the field with four-leg champion Cyna Rodriguez also out to regain her winning ways after getting foiled in her bid for a fourth straight title by Thai Amolkan Phalajivin at ICTSI LPGT Splendido last month.

Piccio and Phalajivin size each other up early in the 8:50 a.m. flight with ace amateur Sofia Chabon of Team ICTSI while Ardina drew Rodriguez in an explosive pairing at 8:30 a.m. that includes amateur Bernice Olivarez-Ilas.

Also itching to atone for her so-so campaign after ruling the second leg at Riviera is Jayvie Agojo even as former SEA Games gold medalist Chihiro Ikeda tries to finally score a breakthrough win in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Agojo and Ikeda, meanwhile, are paired with amateur Sam Green in the 9:10 a.m. group.

Phalajivin also hopes to come up with a strong start in her drive to nail a second straight victory in the circuit on an up-and-down layout which offers a different kind of challenge for the field that has played six courses of varying characters.

Focus, however, will be on Ardina, who is raring to slug it out again with the local pros, whom she dominated in the first two legs of the inaugural staging of the country’s premier ladies pro tour last year before moving to the US to resume her LPGA Tour bid.

Although she failed to make it to the lucrative circuit, Ardina still polished her shotmaking skills and toughened up while playing with some of the future stars on the Symetra Tour, making her the player to watch in this week’s event backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez, despite her setback at Splendido, stays on track for a second straight ICTSI LPGT Order of Merit crown with P520,000 in winnings with two legs left. Phalajivin moves up to second with P343,750 while Agojo has earnings of P321,500 followed by Ikeda (P260,500) and Sarah Ababa (P207,500).

From Valley, the circuit winds up at Sherwood Hills for the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Championship on Nov. 26-28.

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