Ikeda bucks heat, shaky finish to lead
Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2019 - 12:00am

TAGAYTAY, Philippines — Chihiro Ikeda had long searched for the form that once made her one of the most feared players on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and finally regained the touch in scorching conditions yesterday, taking charge with a 70 at the start of the ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands at the Midlands course here.

Save for a late-hole mishap, Ikeda practically had the up-and-down layout all figured out with solid driving, crisp iron play and superb putting, netting her three birdies against a bogey to move one-up over a late-charging amateur Eagle Ace Superal and Thai pro Tiranan Yoopan in the P750,000 event serving as the ninth leg of LPGT’s seventh season.

But finishing with a two-under card in hot conditions and finding herself in the lead were enough to make the former SEA Games gold medalist’s day.

“I’m so exhausted, it was so hot out there,” said Ikeda, who birdied Nos. 6 and 9 from close range then drilled in an eight-foot side-hiller on the 16th to pull ahead of the pack. She, however, missed the 17th green and hit a poor chip shot for the lone black mark in an otherwise impressive 34-36 card under preferred lies rules.

“I’m just glad to be in the lead,” added Ikeda, who went on a slump with a slight hand injury after ruling the Eagle Ridge leg of the LPGT early last year. “I was doing pretty well in the morning but when we reached the turn, it got nasty and I had to literally huff and puff for every shot.”

The way the rest did to survive the ordeal in the early going of the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Superal charging back from a double-bogey start to join Yoopan at second at 71; Thai Onkanok Soisuwan and Daniella Uy matching par 72s; and former leg winner Saruttaya Ngam-usawan, also of Thailand, Pauline del Rosario, Lucy Landicho and amateur Pamela Mariano turning in identical 74s.

Superal of Team The Country Club, who placed third in last week’s Asia-Pacific Junior Championship in Singapore whose sister Princess ruled this event in record fashion (16 strokes) last year, recovered from that shaky start with three birdies in the last five holes.

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