SILANG, Cavite – Unheralded Gretchen Villacencio put in a career-best three-under 69 and found herself a bewildered leader, one stroke ahead of fancied Princess Superal and Korean amateur Kim Hee Ji at the start of the ICTSI Riviera Ladies Classic at Riviera’s Couples course here yesterday.
Villacencio, whose best finish after five legs of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour was 12th at Beverly Place in Pampanga last January, flashed superb form off the mound, with her iron play and putting as she produced five birdies against two bogeys for a 34-35 card.
She also credited her strong start to a couple of lucky shots and a caddie who backed her up from start to finish.
“I was just lucky, had some tough shots that I saved,” said Villacencio, who turned pro just late last year upon the prodding of father and one-time PGT leg winner Arnold, who also acted as her caddie. “He was very supportive and helped inspire me to play this good.”
But lurking behind and ready to pounce is Superal, who sandwiched her bogeys on Nos. 8 and 11 with birdies on the sixth, ninth, 10th and 12th for a 70 that put her on track for a second straight LPGT crown after a record-setting 16-shot romp at Tagaytay Highlands last week.
Kim matched Superal’s two-under card to likewise stay in the early hunt for top honors in the sixth leg of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with the young Korean spiking her 35-35 round with an eagle on the par-5 No. 7. She also birdied Nos. 2, 12 and 16 to negate her bogeys on Nos. 4, 8 and 15.
Another amateur, Missy Legaspi, stood a shot farther back at 71, anchoring her bid with two birdies in the last three holes, while Korean amateur Bang Choeun blew a two-under card with bogeys in the last two holes for a 72 for joint fifth with former three-time Order of Merit winner Cyna Rodriguez, who bogeyed the par-3 17th.