Ace steers Constantino to 1-shot Malarayat lead

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Ace steers Constantino to 1-shot Malarayat lead
Harmie Constantino beams after scoring a hole-in-one on No. 8 of Mt. Makulot.

LIPA City, Batangas – Back on the very course where she humbled a foreign-laced pro field and won as an amateur, Harmie Constantino set in motion her title drive in the ICTSI Mount Malarayat Ladies Challenge in style, scoring a hole-in-one on No. 8 to shoot a 70 and seize a one-stroke lead over Chihiro Ikeda and Marvi Monsalve at the start of the P750,000 championship here Wednesday.

Constantino's eighth career ace came after the golfer drained two birdies in a blistering start at Mt. Malipunyo that however got stymied by a shaky stint at Mt. Lobo where she fumbled with two bogeys, enabling Ikeda and Monsalve to crowd her atop the leaderboard with a pair of 71s and a slew of others to move within striking distance with 36 holes to go in this fourth stop of this year's Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

“It wasn’t that good. I hit a lot of greens but missed a lot of birdie putts. I wasn’t also able to save a few par putts,” rued Constantino, referring to her muffed chances at the back that led to a 38.

“But overall, it was okay,” added Constantino, who used a pitching wedge and Titleist No. 2 ball in scoring the ace, which netted her P20,000 from ICTSI, which awards the prize for the first ace in the season for both the LPGT and PGT, and P10,000 worth of products from the host club. “But I think I could’ve done better.”

Hard-pressed to snap a long title spell on a challenging course where she emerged champion in 2016, Constantino delivered, birdying Nos. 1 and 5 before hitting the hole-in-one on the 118-yard hole.

But she dropped a stroke on the next par-3, No. 11, and the reigning Ladies Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion yielded another shot on the 15th as she struggled trying to recall her form in scorching heat and buck the undulating Malarayat surface.

While Constantino nearly blew it all, flightmate Ikeda flourished, working her way back from six down with a birdie on No. 10 and an eagle on the par-5 13th off a solid drive and a superb rescue shot from 212 yards that landed 10 feet off the cup.

The multi-titled campaigner, who last won at Midlands via playoff over Pauline del Rosario, missed forcing a tie with a flubbed birdie putt from six feet on the closing par-5 hole for a 38-33.

Monsalve, on the other hand, rebounded strong from bogeys on Nos. 3 and 6 with back-to-back birdies from No. 8. She bogeyed No. 14 but fought back with two more birdies on the next three holes then holed out with a birdie to negate a bogey mishap on the 17th for a 36-35 and fuel her bid for a maiden championship in the circuit put up by ICTSI.

“I played steady and was consistent with my drives,” said Monsalve. “Though I missed some fairways, I was able to save some putts although I missed a couple of up-and-downs.”

Constantino’s backside meltdown also allowed Chanelle Avaricio, back-to-back winner at Hallow Ridge and Caliraya, to get back into the thick of things at 73 despite failing to sustain a two-birdie, one-bogey card after five holes with bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10.

She slipped to joint fourth with Pamela Mariano, who birdied the 18th to salvage a 37-36.

But a 20-year-old amateur from talent-rich Del Monte and niece of a living legend could provide the biggest surprise in the week as Martina Miñoza turned in a 74 in her first foray on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

She hit four birdies but made six bogeys in an otherwise impressive start for a young lass bidding to qualify in the country’s premier ladies circuit on her first try.

Gretchen Villacencio, who calls the J. Michael Poellet-designed layout where each hole varies in character home, also stayed within striking distance with a one-over card with two holes left. But she double-bogeyed the 17th and dropped to seventh at 75 while Midlands leg winner Sunshine Baraquiel blew a 37 start with two double bogeys against a birdie at the back and tumbled to joint eight at 76 with amateur Eagle Ace Superal.

Arnie Taguines, the other amateur from Team ICTSI, chipped in for eagle on the 18th but the late feat could only lift her to joint 10th with Lovelyn Guioguio at 77.



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