Thai Saranporn Langkulgasettrin put away Korean Lee Jeong-Hwa with a solid start then watched local hope Chihiro Ikeda fumble at the finish to capture the $80,000 ICTSI Philippines Ladies Masters crown by three despite a closing 73 at the Alabang Country Club yesterday.
Langkulgasettrin blew a late two-stroke lead but leaned on a rare, decisive four-shot swing on No. 16 to beat Ikeda and turn what had been a fierce, nerve-wracking finale into a runaway triumph on a four-under 212 total, pocketing the top $17,000 purse in the season-ending tournament of both the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and the Taiwan LPGA Tour.
“It’s my first championship here and a big confidence booster for next season,” said Langkulgasettrin, who struggled to finish joint 12th at Splendido and 14th at Southwoods in the first two legs of the ICTSI Champion Tour, both legs of the Taiwan LPGA Tour, last March won by Lee.
Ikeda actually sparked hopes of a big local celebration when she canned in a birdie on No. 15 to tie Langkulgasettrin at four-under overall. But the Fil-Japanese choked and triple-bogeyed the par-5 16th, which the Thai birdied to go four-up with two holes to play.
It was over from there as Langkulgasettrin, who scored a breakthrough win on the Thai LPGA Tour last Aug., coasted to a three-shot romp despite a bogey-par windup, savoring the big victory she later dedicated to his father, Surat, who carried the bag for her.
“The key was in the backnine, although I shot one-over, I just focused on my game. When she (Ikeda) missed her shot, I said to myself, alright, I think it’s mine,” said Langkulgasettrin, who played steady in another sweltering day with one-birdie, one-bogey stint at the front.
With Ikeda finishing with a 77 after back-to-back 70s, Princess Superal birdied the last hole to fire a 71 and share second place with first round leader Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul, who carded a second 73, and Lee, who also limped with a 76, at 215 in the event sponsored by ICTSI and co-organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc and TLPGA. Each received $5,900.
Korean Hwang Ye-Nah, who won the LPGT Southlinks leg last year, rallied with one of the day’s two best scores of 69 to finish fifth at 216 worth $3,200 while Ikeda wound up sixth at 217 and settled for $2,800 after moving three holes away from snaring what would’ve been her biggest career win.
“It’s tough since I was just three holes away. But I got too excited and felt tired in the end,” said Ikeda, who tied Langkulgasettrin at six-under with birdies on Nos. 3 and 7 but fell back with bogeys on Nos. 8 and 10 before bouncing back with that birdie on the 15th.
But she hooked her drive on No. 16, needed two shots to play out from a stymied lie, reached the green in 5 and three-putted. She failed to recover and double-bogeyed the next.
“But it’s okay and will just try to prepare hard and try again next year,” Ikeda said.
Lee, who pressed her bid for a sweep of the three TLPGA legs here with a 68 in the second round to join Langkulgasettrin at the helm, bowed out early with a double-bogey on No. 4 and three bogeys in the next five holes.
She later blamed her poor start to fatigue following a grueling two-week campaign in China.
“I felt so tired and I couldn’t focus on the frontnine. And it’s too hot,” said Lee.
Malaysian Michele Low shot the day’s other 69 to place seventh at 218 while Thai Saraporn Chamchoi and Taiwan Order of Merit frontrunner Lin Tzu-Chi carded identical 71s to tie local amateur Yuka Saso, who faltered with a 73, at eighth at 219. Saso, the reigning World Junior Girls champion, also took the low amateur honors.
LPGA Tour-bound Dottie Ardina finally broke par after a 73 and 76, finishing with a 71 to end up 11th at 220.