SYMETRA Tour campaigner Mia Piccio birdied two of the last five holes to fire a four-under 68 for a share of the lead with Korea’s Hwang Ye-nah in the first round of the $75,000 ICTSI Ladies Open on Wednesday at Southlinks Golf Club in Las Pinas.
Two-time LPGA Tour winner Jennifer Rosales had a rough start and scored even 72, while Dottie Ardina had an even tougher time in a wind-less but rain-hit day and carded a 78.
The 21-year-old Hwang, 21, actually got to six-under but suffered a double-bogey on the par-4 ninth, her final hole.
Princess Superal struggled at the start and was already two-over after four holes, but recovered with four birdies in an eight-hole stretch from No. 6 for a 70 and joint third with Tiffany Tavee of the US, who went bogey free.
Yuka Saso, the 13-year-old member of the ICTSI-The Country Club amateur squad, hit four birdies against a double-bogey and a bogey for a 71 for joint fifth with Taiwanese pro Yeh Hsin-ning, who gunned down five birdies but stumbled with two bogeys and a double-bogey.
“I was a bit unlucky in the closing holes. I’ll just try to bounce back tomorrow and hopefully I will play better,” said Rosales, who made birdies on Nos. 2 and 4.
She bogeyed No. 9 but birdied the par-3 12 before salvaging a bogey on No. 15 off the hazard and muffing a five-footer on the 18th.
Back-to-back money list topnotcher Cyna Rodriguez also got to three under but slipped with a double-bogey on No. 13 and a last-hole bogey, falling to joint seventh with Korean Kang Ji-won, Thai Muangkhumsakul Kanphanitnan, Malaysian Aretha Pan and Rosales in the event presented by Champion Infinity and sponsored by ICTSI.
“It was too bad I made a double-bogey. I could’ve done better,” said Hwang, who lost her ball on an errant drive on No. 9 and had to re-hit off the tee.
The Dream Tour winner in Korea last year took advantage of ideal conditions and birdied No. 12 before stringing three straight from No. 18 to No. 2. She added two more on Nos. 4 and 6 but missed completing a solid round with that closing double-bogey mishap.
Piccio, who finished second to Ardina at LPGT Valley late last year, flashed superb iron play and steady putting to net five birdies, the last two inside eight feet that put her title drive in motion in the 54-hole tournament serving as the fourth leg of the Taiwan LPGA Tour and the kickoff of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
She birdied Nos. 4 and 7, added two more on Nos. 12 and 14 that sandwiched her lone bogey before drilling in two more birdies on Nos. 14 and 17 to gain a shared view of the top.
Ardina tumbled down the leaderboard after birdying the par-4 No. 2, as she bogeyed No. 5, dropped two strokes on the eighth and fumbled with another bogey on the ninth. She never recovered her rhythm and putting touch at the back, closing out with three more bogeys for in her worst start on the LPGT.
Superal, the reigning US Girls’ Junior champion, groped for her short game in the early going and bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4 in the rain. But she settled down in time, tapping in for birdie on the sixth then birdied three of the first four holes at the back to put her in early contention.
“It was tough playing in the rain as the wind came along toward the last four holes,” said Superal.
Amateurs Abby Arevalo and LK Go turned in a pair of 74s, matching Singapore’s Christabel Goh, Taiwanese Huang Hsien-wen, Lee Hsin and Pan Yen-lin and former Philippine Ladies Open champion Lee Jeong-hwa of Korea in the tournament backed by Nike, Sharp and Custom Clubmakers.