Saraporn Chamchoi came out of a rain-delayed round with four pars to preserve a four-under 68 as she wrested a one-stroke lead over fellow Thais Yupaporn Kawinpakorn and Onkanok Soisuwan and local bet Marvi Monsalve at the start of The Women’s Championship at the Summit Point Golf and Country Club in Lipa City on Wednesday.
Chamchoi, who used to compete on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour (LPGT) before moving over in the China and Taiwan Ladies Profesional Golfers Association (LPGA) tours in pursuit of ranking points, flashed a near-impeccable iron game to produce five birdies, including three from close range, and endured an hour-long wait due to heavy rains to complete a 34-34 card.
“It (weather delay) didn’t affect my game since I really hit it well approaching the greens and the putting surface was great, too despite the rain,” said Chamchoi, who placed sixth in her last tournament at the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Ayala Greenfield won by amateur Yuka Saso last January.
Monsalve failed to sustain a career-best three-birdie start but kept a three-under 69 for joint second with Kawinpakorn and Soisuwan, who are both seeking a follow-up to their victories in the Beverly Place and Mt. Malarayat legs, respectively, of this year’s LPGT sponsored by ICTSI.
“I took off with a lot of fire,” said Monsalve who rolled in putts from 18 feet on the first and from 30 feet out on the next before banging in another birdie from 10 feet on No. 3. “But the two rain delays kind of slowed me down.”
Chihiro Ikeda, winner at Eagle Ridge last February, gunned down five birdies against three bogeys to wrest solo fifth while amateur LK Go put herself in early contention with a 71 built around four birdies against a double-bogey and bogey.
Cyna Rodriguez, seeking an end to a long slump and the Thais’ domination of the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit, recalled her fierce form and stood among the early leaders with a 33 start spiked by back-to-back birdies from No. 8.
But she stumbled in the tougher backside of the par-72 layout, dropping strokes on Nos. 12 and 16 and flubbing a couple of birdie chances to settle for a share of eighth with Go at 71.
Pauline del Rosario, on a break from the China and Taiwan LPGA tours, recovered from a double-bogey mishap on the par-3 No.6 with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9 but could only churn out a bogey-birdie effort at the back for a 72 in a tie with Thai Chonlada Chayanun and Ayaka Morimitsu of Japan.
Kawinpakorn and Soisuwan overcame a pair of shaky frontside stints with sizzling windup with the former hitting four birdies at the back for a 32 and the latter turning in a more fiery finish of five birdies in the last nine holes for a 31.
Kawinpakorn, who also won the season-ending South Forbes Invitational last December, actually put in a strong start of two birdies in the first three holes but double-bogeyed the fourth and put to naught her third birdie on No. 5 with bogeys in the next two for a 37.
“I had a good time putting out there. Greens were a bit soft and that made it easier to make birdies. Since I won in China last week, I did a slight adjustment to my putting distance and now I’m very comfortable with any putting surface,” said Kawinpakorn, referring to her two-stroke victory at China LPGA Zhuhai Heritage in Guangdong last Saturday.
Soisuwan, member of the Team Southeast Asia which swept the first two Pradera Challenge against Team Phl, failed to get going with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch from No. 4. But after birdying the par-5 ninth, the young Thai top gun kept firing birdies at the back, including both par-5s, to wheel back into contention in the P1.5 million event.
Morimitsu also turned in an impressive start with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 but wavered with two bogeys in a birdie-less backside stint while Chayanun mixed three birdies with the same number of bogeys.
Action is expected to heat up today with only the top 15 plus ties from the 40-player field advancing to the final 18 holes for crack at the top P350,000 purse in the ninth leg of the circuit.