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Thai bags PH Ladies Masters

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. Each received $5,900.