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Yuka Saso checked a rollercoaster backside start with an eagle-spiked windup at the front, firing a four-under 68 to seize a three-stroke lead over Junia Gabasa while Carl Corpus took control of the boys’ field at the start of the Philippine Junior Amateur Open Golf Championships at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite yesterday.
Saso bounced back from a bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie stint with three birdies and an eagle against one more bogey in the next 14 holes as she put her title-retention bid in motion while firming up her spot in this year’s SEA Games squad, this being the last part of a three-stage selection process for spots in the national team for the biennial event in Malaysia in August.
The reigning national champion, also the World Junior Girls gold medalist in Canada last year, highlighted her 33-35 card with a solid drive on the par-5 No. 8 and nearly holed in an albatross off a superb 9-iron second shot from 150 yards that stopped inches off the cup.
Gabasa trailed Saso by one at the turn but the Cebuana bet grabbed the lead with a birdie-birdie feat from No. 1, only to fumble with bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 before ramming in another birdie on the par-3 sixth to string a 35-36 and a 71 for second.
Harmie Constantino, winner of the WExpress RVF Cup crown, the second national elims, last February, mixed three birdies with four bogeys for third at 73 while Kristine Torralba carded a 74 and Kayla Nocum shot a 76 and Nicole Abelar and Korean Yang Ju Young each made a 78 in the event also serving as part of the PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation and organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.