Kongkraphan edges Chen, wins ICTSI Luisita Ladies International by 3

Kongkraphan edges Chen, wins ICTSI Luisita Ladies International by 3
PK Kongkraphan poses with her trophy.
Pilipinas Golf

TARLAC – In a tense battle amid stifling conditions, PK Kongkraphan continued her dominance on foreign soil by capturing the ICTSI Luisita Ladies International 2024 championship despite a 74, adding another remarkable achievement to her storied career.

However, the victory didn’t come easily as Hsuan Chen posed a formidable challenge throughout the $100,000 championship co-sanctioned by the LPGA of Taiwan (TLPGA) and the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, turning the final nine holes into a virtual match play and a gripping test of nerves.

However, it was Kongkraphan’s unwavering determination that proved decisive in the stretch. Capitalizing on Chen’s costly bogeys on Nos. 15, 16 and 17, the former seized the opportunity to regain control of the match, securing the hard-fought, three-stroke victory with a brave run of pars.

Kongkraphan’s triumph, fashioned out on a five-under 211 total and worth $18,000, exemplifies her ability to rise to the occasion and navigate challenging circumstances with grace and skill. In a tournament marked by intense competition and punishing conditions, her strategic prowess ultimately earned her a 24th professional title in a career spanning 15 years that likewise saw her triumph on various tours, including the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Epson Tour.

Kongkraphan, who campaigned for seven years on the LPGA Tour, also accumulated several championships on the Thai LPGA, leading to Order of Merit titles the last three years.

She expressed immense satisfaction and relief after securing her first win in the season, underscoring the hard work she had invested while noting that her efforts had finally paid off.

“I’ve been working hard for this (win) and it paid off. It was a tough day, I tried to be aggressive but the conditions were tough. It was very stressful but I’m very proud of myself,” said Kongkraphan, who also noted the tough pin positions and the wind that picked up from the start.

Kongkraphan’s triumph also required immense patience and resilience, particularly as Chen remained a constant threat. Despite facing adversity with a one-birdie, two-bogey over nine holes to fall behind, the reigning Asian Games individual gold medalist displayed her experience and composure by stringing together a series a pars in the last seven holes.

As Chen briefly seized the lead with a frontside 35 and remained neck-and-neck with Kongkraphan in the early stages of the back nine, the pressure mounted for both competitors with the Taiwanese reeling back with consecutive bogeys from No. 10 and the Khon Kaen native also yielding a stroke on the 11th, setting the stage for a frenetic finish.

But Chen’s wavering backside 41 led to a 76 and Kongkraphan’s commanding victory. It also enabled Harmie Constantino, who fired the day’s best 69, and Chih-Yun Wu, who matched par 72 for the second straight time, to finish tied for second at 214 in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. Each received $8,233.

As Chen faltered in the closing stages of the match, Kongkraphan pounced on her rival’s miscues. She also acknowledged the difficulty of the day’s play, emphasizing the need to staying mentally sharp and maintaining distance control on the greens.

Florence Bisera pulled to within three with two birdies in the first five holes but failed to sustain her charge, reeling back with three bogeys in the last 11 holes and ending up with a 73 for solo fifth at 215 worth $4,000.

Sarah Ababa shot a 71 to tie Dussavi Soopimjit and Pear Pooratangaopa, who carded 73 and 74, respectively, at sixth with 217s, while Kanyawawt Poomklay came through with a 70 for joint ninth at 218 with Eri Ashizawa (72), Kultida Pramphun (73) and Wad Phaewchimplee (76).

While Kongkraphan also tasted success on the TLPGA, her crowning achievement came at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China last year, where she emerged victories against the region’s best.

Kongkraphan applied early pressure on her rivals, extending her overnight one-stroke lead with an early birdie on the tricky second hole. Despite challenges from Chen and Bisera, she remained unfazed, showcasing her championship pedigree and closing out the tournament in style.

Though several others attempted comebacks, including Constantino’s valiant effort, Kongkraphan’s steady play proved insurmountable as she clinched yet another impressive victory on the international stage.

Following bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6, she adopted a strategic approach to her game. Tied with Chen heading into the pivotal No. 15, Kongkraphan, who lost to Bianca Pagdanganan in last year's Anvaya Cove International in Bataan, recognized the importance of maintaining her composure.

“I just stayed focused and played smart from there,” said Kongkraphan, who is also set to defend a TLPGA crown next month.

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