VELINDA CASTIL had a wobbly front side but battled back in a fashion rarely seen in a junior golfer by birdying two of the last four holes to salvage a second straight 73 to keep the lead in the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Del Monte Championship in Bukidnon.
Castil’s birdies on Nos. 15 and 18 made up for her double-bogey on the first hole and a bogey on the ninth and her late rebound stood out in a rainy day when Harmie Constantino and Daniella Uy limped with mishaps at Del Monte Golf Club’s tough finishing holes and fell off the leaderboard.
With a 146 aggregate and a one-shot lead over new pursuer Pamela Mariano, the 15-year-old Castil candidly admitted the pressure to deliver in her first pro tournament is mounting while doubts begin to creep into her young mind.
“I sort of feel nervous, I’m ahead by only 1,” said Castil, who is coming off a runner-up finish in the 15-18 age group of the Junior Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) VisMin Classic at Pueble de Oro last Sunday that earned her a slot in next month’s national finals.
“I hope to maintain my poise tomorrow [Thursday],” added the Manolo Fortich native who moved 18 holes away from becoming the youngest—and the first junior—to win on the Ladies PGT.
Princess Superal won as an amateur the final leg of the LPGT’s inaugural season in Baguio in 2013 at age 16.
But out to spoil Castil’s record run are two title hungry pros, including Mariano, who also rallied with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to turn in the day’s best 71 and take the challenger’s role at 147.
“I just enjoyed the game and was able to correct some of my mistakes in the first round,” said Mariano, referring to her big recovery from a first round 76.
Unlike in her first stab at LPGT at Mount Malarayat last year where she wound up tied for fourth after a final round 77, the 25-year-old Mariano liked her chances this time.
“I think I’m familiar with the greens, the speed and how they play,” she said.
Yvon Bisera, who finished runner-up to Uy in the last LPGT leg at Forest Hills, carded a second straight 74 on a four-bogey, two-birdie round and lay just two strokes off Castil with a 148 in a tie with a charging amateur Mafy Singson, the runaway winner at Valley, who also fought back from a three-over card with birdies on Nos. 11 and 15.
“I had a good round, but there were holes where I committed mistakes,” said Bisera, pointing to her three-bogey skid from No. 6 marred by a three-putt miscue on the seventh where she flubbed a birdie chance and missed a par-putt bid from short range.
Abby Abarcas, the other junior golfer who tied Bisera at second in the first round of the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. and backed by PGTI official apparel Kampfortis Golf, made four bogeys against a birdie to drop to joint fifth at 149 after a 75.
Uy tied for the lead with a front 36 but slipped with a bogey-bogey finish, ending up with a 74 and dropping to Abarcas’s group that includes Koreans Ju Young Yang and amateur Jiwon Lee, who shot 78 and 76, respectively.
Constantino actually made an early charge from four shots down with birdies on Nos. 4 and 9 for the best frontside output among the 25-player field. But the back-to-back winner at Luisita and Villamor tripped with a double-bogey on No. 11 and yielded a stroke on the 13th to wind up with a 73.
She stood at joint ninth at 150, four strokes off Castil, with Apple Fudolin and Korean Min Yeong Kim, who put in a 74 and 72, respectively.
Image credits: Roy Domingo