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Del Rosario nips Thai by 1 for title

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Pauline del Rosario broke away early with clutch birdies to cushion the impact of a faltering finish, closing out with a one-under 71 to edge Thai Paphangkorn Tavatanakit by one and capture the Thailand Ladies Amateur Open crown at the Phoenix Golf Club in Pattaya, Thailand late Friday.

Tied with Tavatanakit after 36 holes, Del Rosario surged ahead by three with birdies on Nos. 3, 10 and 13 then bucked a three-putt miscue on No. 17 and her rival’s closing birdie to hack out a one-stroke victory with a 54-hole aggregate of six-under 210.

“It’s a nice feeling to win again. I really worked hard on my putting and I’m glad I made the putts in the early going to wrest control,” said the 17-year-old Del Rosario, who muffed a number of birdie chances in the first two rounds that enabled Tavatanakit to share the lead with 69 and 70.

It was The Country Club bet’s second National Open triumph this year after the De La Salle-Zobel student dominated the field in the Malaysian Ladies Open last June and it came on the heels of her runaway title-retention victory in last month’s Canlubang Amateur Open.

“She’s been hitting the ball pretty solid and she was due for another win,” said TCC coach Bong Lopez. “I told her she needed a strong start and she responded.”

Truly, Del Rosario put the pressure on her gutsy rival early with a three-foot birdie putt on No. 3, went 2-up with an eight-footer on the 10th then shook off Tavatanakit, who had hoped to close within two with a tap-in birdie, with a long 15-foot birdie putt on No. 13 then made regulation putts in the next two to go 3-up with three holes to go.

But Tavatanakit refused to give up, pouncing on the Filipina ace’s three-putt bogey from 30 feet on the par-4 17th then knocked in another tap-in birdie on the par-5 18th but ran out of holes as Del Rosario responded with a regulation par to clinch the crown by one.

Tavatanavit settled for second with a 211 after a 72 while Rina Tatematsu, also of Thailand, rallied with a 69 to grab third at 215.

Princess Superal, also of TCC, finished the way she started, in struggling form, ending up with a 73 for seventh at 221 while teammate Sofia Chabon wound up 12th at 227 after a 73.