PAULINE del Rosario hit late birdies to card a 73 for a one-stroke lead in the first round of the ICTSI Orchard Ladies Invitational on Wednesday at Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Del Rosario, looking to finally take the top spot after two runner-up finishes in the first three legs of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to emerge from the middle of the 30-player pack to the top of the heap.
Defending champion Chihiro Ikeda, Sarah Ababa and Thailand’s Pannapa Polnamin share second spot at 74.
Apple Fudolin was fifth at 75.
Five shared the lead in one stretch before the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. suspended play due to threat of lightning late in the afternoon.
“The greens are slow and tough to read compared to where I played last week in Thailand LPGA,” said Del Rosario, who muffed par-putts inside eight feet on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 16.
But she came away with superb wedge shots in the last three holes, setting up a 12-footer on No. 16 and a 10-footer on the last to gain control.
Ababa, looking to end a drought and add to the Sherwood title she won in 2015, hit back-to-back birdies from No. 8 to negate a bogey on No. 2 before dropping shots on Nos. 13, 14 and 16.
Thailand’s Jaruporn Palakawong Na Ayutthaya shot a 76, while amateur Sam Bruce birdied the 18th for a 77 and eighth spot.
Eagle Ace Superal, younger sister of Symetra Tour campaigner and many-time LPGT champion Princess, birdied the first two holes but struggled the rest of the way and wound up with a 78 to match Thailand’s Alisara Wedchakama.