ANTIPOLO – Pauline del Rosario mastered the sleek putting surface of Forest Hills and shot an eagle-aided four-under 68 to seize a three-stroke lead over defending champion Supamas Sangchan of Thailand at the start of the 2014 Champion Infinity Philippine Ladies Open Golf Championship on Wednesday.
Del Rosario, who racked up six victories last year, including the Malaysia Kids World and the Singapore Juniors, settled down at the front after a rollercoaster start at the back, hitting two birdies from close range on Nos. 1 and 4 and a chip-in on No. 5 to complete a 33-35 card.
“The greens were fast, making it hard for us to putt,” said the 14-year-old Del Rosario, who took over for the fancied Team ICTSI after Princess Superal fumbled with a three-over 75 in the 54-hole championship.
Sangchan, who edged Dottie Ardina on the sixth playoff hole to win last year’s crown at Mt. Malarayat, gunned down three birdies to negate two bogeys as she put herself in early contention at 71 while Villamor’s Harmie Constantino also produced a one-under card in one of the late afternoon flights.
“The greens are very hard to read,” said the 17-year-old Sangchan, seeking to become the first Thai to win back-to-back titles in this annual event organized by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.
Singapore’s Amelia Yong matched par 72 while Southwoods’ Miya Legaspi, the reigning Asian Youth Games gold medalist who teamed up with Superal and Katrina Briones in steering the Philippines to the team gold in last month’s SEA Games in Myanmar, turned in a 73.
Young Mikhaela Fortuna of The Country Club carded a 74.
Superal, who routed the pro field to win the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour final leg in Baguio then went on to clinch the individual gold in Myanmar, struggled with her short game and could only produce two birdies against three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 1.
“I had a bad short game,” rued the 16-year-old Superal, who also three-putted Nos. 4 and 18.
Marvi Monsalve, also of Southwoods, joined Superal at 75.
Thai ace Sherman Santiwiwattanaphong, also coming off a rousing pro win in the Thailand Ladies Open, wavered with a four-over 76 to drop into a tie with Bianca Pagdangayan of Aguinaldo and Southwoods’ Angela de Villa while Malaysians Michelle Koh and Diane Luke stood at 77.