Ikeda fumbles, recovers to stay ahead

Chihiro Ikeda shook off a wobbly start with a fiery backside charge as she salvaged an even-par 69 to regain a three-stroke lead over amateur Chanelle Avaricio after two rounds of the ICTSI Camp John Hay Ladies Championship in Baguio yesterday.

After firing an opening bogey-free 63 on a hot putter for a five-stroke lead Wednesday, Ikeda struggled on John Hay’s tricky, undulating surface, stumbling with two bogeys and a double-bogey in the first five holes and making the turn at four-over 39, enabling her pursuers to gain ground in hot conditions.

They included Avaricio, who overhauled a seven-stroke deficit in a flight ahead and tied the Fil-Japanese at two-under overall with three birdies for a 32 with at least five others, including Princess Superal and Daniella Uy, also getting back into the thick of things.

But Ikeda regained her bearing and rhythm and birdied the first three holes at the back then added two more against a bogey to close out with a 30 in a big rebound fthat gave her a 36-hole total of six-under 132 after a 69.

“Just couldn’t get the feel of my putter early on. But I was able to regain my touch and rhythm back in time,” said Ikeda after that big backside rebound that moved her closer to scoring a follow-up to her playoff win over Pauline del Rosario at Tagaytay Midlands last May.

In contrast, Avaricio failed to sustain her hot frontside run as she yielded a stroke on the 10th although the Alabama State U product birdied Nos. 16 and 17, both par-5s, for the second straight day to shoot a 65 and assume the challenger’s role at 135.

“I gained confidence after a near-eagle on No. 1. My driving has been solid and I know where to put my ball on the greens,” said Avaricio, one of the five amateurs vying in the 54-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I’ll just play my game tomorrow (today) and hope to make the most of my birdie chances,” added Avaricio, who earned a crack at the crown after missing the cut at Pradera Verde last week.

Five shots off the pace after 18 holes, Superal moved to within two off Ikeda with a 36 start but, like Avaricio, the Japan LPGA Step Up campaigner fell short of matching the leader’s backside rebound although she hit two birdies to save a 68 and a 136.

Uy also closed to within three with a 36 start but the joint third placer at Pradera just couldn’t get the right breaks, finishing with two birdies against a double-bogey in the last nine holes for a one-over 70. She slipped to fourth at 139, now seven shots behind the leader with 18 holes to play in the P1 million event sponsored by ICTSI.

Amateur Mafy Singson put herself back in the mix with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 but the spearhead of Team The Country Club bogeyed Nos. 9 and 11 and flubbed a couple of birdie putts to finish with a 69 for a 140.

The rest stood too far behind to get a shot at the crown in the ninth leg of the seventh season of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with Thais Numa Gulyanamitta and Ajira Nualraksa assembling identical 141s after a 71 and 72, respectively, and Pamela Mariano way behind at 144 after a 74.
Gretchen Villacencio hobbled with a 72 for a 145 while Eagle Ace Superal, also a member of TCC, carded a 71 to tie former leg winner Sarah Ababa, who limped with a 76, at 147 in the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.