Kongkraphan sizzles with 66 to seize lead in ICTSI Luisita Ladies International

Kongkraphan sizzles with 66 to seize lead in ICTSI Luisita Ladies International
PK Kongkraphan
Pilipinas Golf

TARLAC – Reigning Asian Games gold medalist PK Kongkraphan delivered a stellar performance under sweltering conditions, carding an impressive six-under 66 to wrest control from Hsuan Chen after 36 holes of the $100,000 ICTSI Luisita Ladies International 2024 here Wednesday.

Enduring a heat index of 44 degrees Fahrenheit, the Thai standout demonstrated exceptional consistency while adopting an aggressive approach, notching birdies in three of the first six holes and adding four more birdies against a lone bogey in the last eight to fashion out a pair of 33s.

With a bogey-free 71 in the previous round, Kongkraphan, 32, asserted her dominance with a seven-under 137 aggregate, snaring a one-stroke lead over Chen at the Luisita Golf and Country Club course.

The Taiwanese, who initially appeared poised to dominate the field with three consecutive birdies from No. 10, encountered setbacks with two bogeys against a birdie throughout the round, ultimately settling for a 70 after a sterling 68. She slipped to second place at 138.

Punpaka Phuntumabamrung briefly positioned herself to challenge for the top with a four-under card with four holes remaining at the front. But a stroke of misfortune on the par-3 No. 6 dashed her hopes, resulting in a triple bogey and a 70 and keeping her in third place at 140, three strokes behind Kongkraphan.

Describing her stellar play, Kongkraphan attributed her success to her aggressive mindset, saying: “I challenged myself and played very aggressively.”

Despite encountering challenges with the slow greens, she capitalized on every opportunity, underscoring the importance of maintaining focus and enjoyment of the game rather than fixating on the outcome.

Looking ahead to the final round, Kongkraphan expressed her commitment to remaining on the attack mode and focusing on executing her game plan, noting: “I guess a 10-under total would win. But it will boil down to putting, so I have to stay in the fairways and make the putts.”

Chen missed completing a four-birdie spree with a muffed putt from close range on No. 4, after which she struggled to maintain her rhythm and focus under the scorching afternoon sun.

“The heat really got to me in the afternoon and I lost my concentration,” said Chen.

Unlike Kongkraphan, she’ll be relying on her long game as she pursues a breakthrough victory and the top prize of $18,000.

Despite a strong finish on the frontside with birdies on the last two holes for a second straight 71, Florence Bisera remained five strokes off the pace at 142, recognizing the need to fine-tune her short game and execute flawlessly to snatch the victory on the demanding Luisita layout.

The LPGT South Pacific leg champion last year rued a number of birdie chances, including a flubbed three-footer on No. 13 and a birdie putt from pin-length high on No. 15 that resulted in a three-putt miscue.

“I also struggled to hit the greens, so I need to work on my short game,” said Bisera, who tied Wad Phaewchimplee, who also carded a 71, and Chih-Yun Wu, who matched par 72, at fourth

Forty-three players advanced to the final round of the of the championship co-sanctioned by the LPGA of Taiwan and the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with Chihiro Ikeda fighting back with a 74 to salvage a spot at joint 39th with a 151.

Also pooling seven-over totals were Kanyanat Saithip and Prima Thammaraks, who both shot 74s, Alisara Wedchakama, who struggled with a 75, and Unyong Polnamin, who fumbled with a 77.

However, withdrawals due to extreme heat were noted with Mikha Fortuna and Samaporn Khangkhun forced to retire after experiencing dizziness.

Fortuna, who opened with a 75, had a two-over card and quit after back-to-back bogeys from No. 2 on her way home, while Khangkhun had a four-over card in the day and 10-over total when she withdrew with three holes to play.

Pear Pooratanaopa fired a 70 to move to seventh at 142, while while Queen Meesom-us groped for a 75 after a 69, tumbling from second to joint eighth at 144 with Dussavi Soopimjit and Han-Hsuan Yu, who carded 71 and 72, respectively.

Other Filipinas who advanced included Harmie Constantino (73-145), Sarah Ababa (75-146), Lois Kaye Go (72-148), Chanelle Avaricio (76-149), Daniella Uy (76-149) and Princess Superal (76-150).

Kotono Tateura scored a hole-in-one on the 152-yard No. 6, using a Srixon 6-iron club and Titleist No. 4 ball. But her 73 failed to lift her past the cutoff line as she wound up with a 152.

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