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12-foot birdie turns Superal into pro royalty

TRECE MARTIREZ, Cavite – Princess Superal birdied the first playoff hole from 12 feet to edge Thais Aunchia Utama and Ajira Nualraksa and former teammate Pauline del Rosario and complete a dream pro debut in the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Classic at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club here yesterday.

Superal lost an early two-stroke lead as she lost her putting touch then rallied from two down on a lost ball on No. 12 with a clutch birdie on No. 16 to scramble for a 72 and force a playoff with the Thais and Del Rosario, who all put in under-par cards, at four-under 212s.

Utama fought back from four down to tie Del Rosario on top with back-to-back birdies from No. 14 but bogeyed the 17th and finished with a 68, while Nualraksa wrested the lead with a solid 32 start but dropped three strokes in the first two holes at the back and needed to birdie No. 15th to shoot a 70 and gain a crack at the crown.

Del Rosario worked her way up with a stirring birdie-birdie-eagle feat from No. 12, moving from three-down to two-up and appeared headed for a romp with four holes to go. But the spearhead of Team The Country Club hit an errant drive on No. 18, struggled to reach the green and wound up with bogey for a 69, setting the stage for a four-player playoff.

But Superal picked herself up in sudden death back on No. 18, coming away with two brilliant shots, then banging in that gem of a putt that shattered Nualraksa’s confidence as the Thai lost her poise and missed extending the match from eight feet.

The two others actually made it in regulation but Utama’s birdie bid from long range fell short and Del Rosario, who putted next, flubbed her try from afar before Superal, figuring the slope and the speed needed a couple of times, rolled in the clincher that proved too much for Nualraksa to overcome.

“I feel very happy. Though I missed a couple of putts early, I still found a way to win,” said Superal, basking in glory as she received her first pro trophy and check worth P150,000 in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.

“This win means a lot to me,” said the 19-year-old ace, who recently finished tied for second in Stage I of the LPGA Qualifying School. “I really did my best to win.”