TAGAYTAY – Chihiro Ikeda watched Pauline del Rosario flub an eight-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole and banged in hers from six feet to snare the hotly disputed ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands Ladies Challenge crown at the Midlands course yesterday here.
Ikeda and Del Rosario pounced on erstwhile leader Daniella Uy’s final round meltdown to finish tied at 215 after 54 holes with Ikeda birdying the par-5 18th in regulation to save a 72 and force a playoff with Del Rosario, who rallied from seven down with a closing bogey-free 69 to pool a one-under overall total in the P750,000 championship which served as the ninth leg of the seventh season of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
Uy hung tough despite an opening 40 but the former Junior World titlist blew it all with a bogey on the 17th. She wound up with a birdie-less 77 and ended up third instead at 217.
After both parred the first playoff hole, also on No. 18, they changed tactics in their third approach on the dog-leg right finishing hole with Ikeda going for the right side of the green and Del Rosario opting to hit it on the left.
“I went for the right side because I felt the angle there is much easier,” said Ikeda, who pocketed the top P150,000 purse after nailing her first win on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour in 15 months.
“I targeted the left side of the green because I had a hard time pitching on the right. It’s just too bad I missed my birdie putt,” said Del Rosario, who nearly pulled off one of the stirring comebacks in the circuit put up by ICTSI by battling back from seven down with a solid three-under card spiked by a birdie-birdie feat from No. 16.
But she missed winning it outright in regulation with a muffed birdie try on the 18th from just about the same distance in their second playoff hole.
Still, the runner-up finish and her runaway triumph at Royal Northwoods last month should be enough to boost her confidence as she hurriedly left for the US for a series of tournaments in Florida as part of her buildup for the LPGT Tour Qualifying School this August.
But it was an inspiring victory for the Fil-Japanese shotmaker, who went on a slump after topping the Eagle Ridge leg early last year, struggling to contend in the succeeding tournaments with a slight hand injury.
But she knew she had her game back after finishing tied for second last March at Manila Southwoods.
“I still feel some pain (in my hand). But I knew I could still contend. I stayed focused all throughout this week and kept believing I could win again,” said the former SEA Games gold medalist, who also thanked Manila Southwoods for providing her the training ground and facilities.
It was a sorry finish for Uy, who surged ahead by three over Ikeda after 36 holes and held sway despite a 40 start in the final round. But the former Junior World titlist blew it all with a bogey on the 17th as she wound up with a birdie-less 77 and ended up third instead at 217.
“I felt so much pressure and I had a bad game as well,” said Uy. “But it was a good experience for me. I’m sure this will help me improve in the future.”
Amateur Eagle Ace Superal also moved from seven shots back to within striking distance with three birdies in the first eight holes. But a bogey on the ninth slowed down her charge and two more bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 dropped her out of the title race. She settled for a 71 and finished fourth at 218 while clinching the low amateur honors coming off a third place effort in the Asia Pacific Juniors in Singapore last week.
Thai Tirapan Yoopan never got into contention with a bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey start and fumbled with three more bogeys before matching Del Rosario’s windup of two birdies in the last three to card a second 74. She placed fifth with a 219.
Compatriot and former LPGT leg winner Onkanok Soisuwan also closed out with a 74 for sixth at 222 while amateur Nicole Abelar hobbled with a 75 for seventh at 226 followed by Marvi Monsalve (74-227), Thai Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang (76-229) and Bahrain’s Valerie Tan (80-229).