LAUREL, Batangas – Korean Hwang Min-jeong lived up to the promise, winning her pro debut by edging reigning Ladies Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion Princess Superal for the ICTSI Splendido Ladies Classic crown on a closing 70 here yesterday.
Hwang, who showed her potentials way back in 2015 when she topped a pro tournament at Mt. Malarayat as a 14-year-old amateur, leaned on a two-shot swing against Superal on No. 12 to hike her lead to four then kept her poise in the face of the latter’s make-or-break charge in the stretch to pocket the title by the slimmest of margins.
Superal, who closed to within one after 36 holes with a 68 Wednesday, also pounced on a birdie-bogey swipe on No. 14 and threatened to within one with another birdie on the 15th. But she failed to cap her rally with muffed birdie putts in the last three holes, also ending up with a two-under card that enabled Hwang to preserve the lead and take the victory at six-under 210 worth P150,000.
“I was nervous every time Princess putts because I know she’d make it anytime,” said Hwang. “In contrast, I struggled with my putting but I’m glad my father was there to help me read my lines of putt.”
It was a sorry setback for Superal, who had looked forward to an explosive windup after shooting back-to-back birdies from No. 14 that pulled her within a shot. She finished with 211 and received P95,000.
Hwang, who also posted a record 16-stroke romp to win the Philippine Amateur Open crown last year, also became the second Korean to win in the first four legs of the 2018-19 LPGT put up by ICTSI after amateur Lee Ji Hyeon reigned at Camp John Hay in Baguio last October.
Chonlada Chayanun, tied with Hwang at the start of the final round, crumbled under pressure, reeling back with an opening 38 and limping home with a 73 to wind up third at 213 worth P60,000.
Despite going four strokes down with six holes to go, Superal knew she still had a chance. She birdied No. 14 against Hwang’s bogey and applied more pressure on the Korean by hitting another birdie on the par-4 15th.
But Hwang steeled herself up in the pressure-packed stage, matching Superal’s par.