Thai ace joins hunt at Splendido

In Photo: Thailand’s Yupaporn Kawinpakorn eyes her third crown.

Yupaporn Kawinpakorn hopes to make it three-in-a-row on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour (LPGT) as she banners the stellar international field in the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Splendido Ladies Classic, which reels off today at the Splendido Taal Golf Club.

The veteran Thai campaigner ruled last year’s season-ending tournament at South Forbes, then dominated the field in this year’s second stop at Beverly Place, making her the player to beat in the 54-hole championship serving as the fourth leg of the circuit put up by ICTSI.

Kawinpakorn, a former Philippine Ladies Open champion, didn’t see action in the 2018 LPGT kickoff leg at Ayala Greenfield won by amateur Yuka Saso and begged off from last week’s LPGT Eagle Ridge leg topped by Chihiro Ikeda via a three-hole playoff over South Korean amateur Lee Ji-hyeon.

The same thrilling finish is expected in this week’s P750,000 tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc., with Ikeda all fired-up for a crack at the second straight championship and the likes of Symetra Tour campaigners Dottie Ardina, Princess Superal and Cyna Rodriguez raring to end a long spell in the circuit, which they used to dominate.

Focus will also be on Pauline del Rosario, the defending champion here, who is coming off a strong joint 15th finish in last week’s China Ladies Professional Golfers Association Tour Qualifying School.

The winner of four LPGT legs last year, del Rosario exudes confidence as she sets out for her title-retention drive but remains wary of the opposition, including the big Thai delegation and a slew of other local aces.

Aside from Kawinpakorn, the other Thais tipped to contend for the top P150,000 purse are former leg winner Saruttaya Ngam-Usawan along with Chatprapa Siriprakob, Chonlada Chayanun and Mookharin Ladgratok.

Others in the fold are Chouvarest Chourkittisopon, JP Na Ayuttaya, Kanyalak Preedasuttijit, Numa Gulyanamitta, Pavarisa Yoktuan, Sarinee Thitiratanakorn, Thanuttra Boonraksasat, Thanya Pattamakijsajul Tiranan Yoopan and Amolkan Phalajivin, who ruled this event in 2014.

Meanwhile, a crack amateur roster is also expected to crowd the leading pros, led by Lee and fellow Korean and Hwang Min-jeong, a former winner at LPGT Mt. Malarayat, along with Kim Hui Won, Baek Yeun Jea, Park Kyung Hee, and The Country Club bets Mafy Singson, Sam Dizon and Laia Barron along with Alex Etter and Marianne Bustos.

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Turning Points 2018