Thai Nemittra Juntanaket hits her approach shot on No. 9.
Thai bucks shaky start with strong finish to lead
Dante Navarro ( - August 14, 2019 - 2:54pm

LIPA City, Batangas – An errant drive that led to a fat 7 to start a title campaign hardly upset Nemittra Juntanaket, who unleashed a strong finishing kick to save a 72 in the heat and wind and wrest a two-stroke lead over Marvi Monsalve at the start of the ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Ladies Classic at Mt. Malarayat’s composite course here Wednesday.

Juntanaket lost her ball on her first shot in the P750,000 tournament, but the gutsy Thai recovered from that triple-bogey mishap with a run of pars, including a couple of saves, then birdied three of the last six before watching the rest waver and hobble at the closing holes of the Mt. Malipunyo-Mt. Makulot nines, including Princess Superal, to find herself the surprise leader.

“Except on No. 1, my game is good. I actually struggled at the front but recovered and played good at the back,” said Juntanaket, who hopes to sustain her form and finally get a title shot in the 54-hole championship put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I’ll make sure to have a good score on No. 1 tomorrow and hit the fairways and greens,” added Juntanaket, whose sister Nimmita, however, stumbled with an 80.

Monsalve, meanwhile, banked on her putting to survive a rollercoaster stint on what she described as “good and very challenging” course.

“Compared to Mt. Makulot, it was difficult to putt at Mt. Malipunyo where the greens are hard and one needs a good drop (approach) to get a good shot at birdies,” said Monsalve, who struggled with a 38 at the front but rallied with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to assume the challenger’s role.

But it was a sorry finish for Superal, winner of the last LPGT leg at John Hay, who had appeared to be in control after bouncing back from a bogey on No. 2 with birdies on Nos. 5, 8 and 10. But after two pars, she bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14, dropped another stroke on the 16th and holed out with a double bogey.

“I didn’t know what happened, got confused with what to use on my second shots. My long game and putting were okay but almost all of my approach shots at the back went over,” rued Superal, who hopes to settle down on club selection in the last 36 holes.

Korean Hwang Min-Jeong, who as an amateur bested the pros here in 2015, birdied No. 18 but not after dropping strokes on Nos. 2, 3, 12 and 17 and making a double bogey on No. 9 for a 40-37 and a 77 for joint ninth with Thai Chouvarest Chourkittisopon, a stroke behind joint seventh-running Ajira and Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro, who both carded 76s, as the Thais dominated the first 18 holes of the 54-hole championship with seven in the Top 10.

The local aces groped for form in the heat and wind with Midlands leg winner Chihiro Ikeda fumbling with a 78 in a tie with comebacking Cyna Rodriguez and Gretchen Villacencio while former leg winner Sarah Ababa limped with a 79 for a share of 14th with Pamela Mariano.

Eagle Ace Superal, meanwhile, skied to an 80 but emerged as the leading amateur with Korean Kwon Tae Yon and Mafy Singson both turning in 81s and Sam Bruce and Samantha Martirez submitting 82s in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.

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