MOOKHARIN Ladgratok of Thailand hit three birdies in the last five holes for a five-under 66 and a one-stroke lead at the start of the Manila Southwoods Ladies Classic at Southwoods’ Legends course in Carmona, Cavite.
The 21-year-old Ladgratok had a near-flawless iron game on the par-71, 6048-yard course to take the lead over Korean amateur Hwang Min Jeong, another Thai player Wannasiri Sirisampant and local ace Chihiro Ikeda.
Yuka Saso and Piyathida Ployumsri turned in identical 69s to also put themselves in early contention in the 54-hole tournament serving as the final leg of the eight-stage circuit.
Hwang rallied at the back with four birdies to fuel her bid for a second straight title after winning at Mt. Malarayat last month.
Sirisampant had a solid start highlighted by a pitch-in eagle on No. 8 but missed a chance to take a share of the lead with a missed-green bogey on No. 18.
Ikeda got to five-under with back-to-back birdies from No. 14 but stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 17th to drop a joint second.
“I like where I stood but I need to stay focused against the Thais and Hwang,” said Ikeda, the former SEA Games gold medalist still chasing her breakthrough win on the three-year-old ICTSI Philippine Ladies Golf Tour.
Ployumsri birdied two of the last five to fire a 69, while Saso made an impressive start of back-to-back birdies but went on a rollercoaster ride, mixing three bogeys and three birdies for joint fifth.
Saraporn Chamchoi carded a 70 for solo seventh, while Lovelynn Guioguio, Korea’s Kim So Un and Thailand’s Jaruport Palakawongnaayuttawa hit 71s for a share of eighth.
Sarah Ababa, winner at LPGT Sherwood, made four bogeys in the first seven holes before finding her rhythm and settling for a one-over 72 in the tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.