TARLAC – Chanelle Avaricio sneaked past Princess Superal and ace amateur Rianne Malixi with a scorching frontside finish, birdying three of the last seven holes to shoot a two-under 70 and grab a one-stroke lead over the marked duo after 18 holes of the ICTSI Luisita Ladies Championship here yesterday.
Avaricio, who scored a breakthrough at Riviera-Couples in last year’s third restart of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, banked on her solid approach shots on her way home at the front, setting up birdie chances from close range to gain a solo view of the top of the 54-hole championship.
“I played a pretty decent round. After a two-bogey, one-birdie card at the back, I recovered at the front – hit some good second shots that set up easy birdies,” said Avaricio, who seeks to dish out more of the same in today’s second round in a bid to bolster her title drive in the P750,000 championship put up by ICTSI.
Superal and Malixi lived up to the pre-tournament hype in the featured threesome that included Chihiro Ikeda, slugging it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in a duel that sparked hopes for duo’s sustained control of the tournament after matching 34s after nine holes before finishing with 71s in hot conditions.
BIBAT FIRES 68
Meantime, Michael Bibat bucked the heat and endured a year-long wait, flashing top form to fire a solid four-under 68 and wrest a one-stroke lead over Miguel Tabuena at the start of the ICTSI Luisita Men’s Championship.
Bibat carried out a well-laid plan to dominate the long, challenging Robert Trent Jones, Sr-designed layout, keeping the ball in play and hitting superb approach shots that set up a number of chances, four of which he birdied to seize control of the compact 48-player field and the event that marked the resumption of the Philippine Golf Tour.
Tabuena shrugged off a wobbly start to card a 69 and stalk Bibat while Nilo Salahog shot birdies linking both nines but flubbed a par-saving putt from close range on the 18th to settle for a 71 for joint third with Jhonnel Ababa and rookie pro Sean Ramos.
Ababa, who went into farming during the long break, mixed two birdies against a bogey while Ramos rebounded from a bogey on No. 2 with three birdies but missed seizing solo third with another mishap on Luisita’s signature par-3 17th.
But three behind the pair with a backside 37, Avaricio stormed ahead as she found her rhythm and range at the front, scoring back-to-back birdies from No. 3 then gaining another stroke with a solid tee-shot on the par-3 No. 6.
But lurking behind are the fancied duo. After a solid frontside, Superal hit an errant drive on No. 10 and had to play out from a stymied lie then failed to get up and down from five feet although she regained the stroke with another birdie on the par-5 16th.
The winner of three of the first five LPGT tournaments held in bubble setup last year, however, overshot the difficult par-3 No. 17, pitched short and flubbed a par-saving putt from six feet.