Chihiro Ikeda, gaining much from a long respite to heal an injured hand, took charge in a topsy-turvy opener of the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Challenge, banking on a late eagle on her way to a two-under 70 and a two-stroke lead over Gretchen Villacencio and Chanelle Avaricio on Wednesday, July 7.
Ikeda wrested control after an unpredictable start at resumption of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour that had the leaderboard shuffling on every converted putt and missed shot before the Fil-Japanese surged ahead on back-to-back birdies to close out her frontside stint at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club for a 34.
She, however, went on a bogey-birdie-bogey roll from No. 11 to barely cling onto the lead but drained an eagle on the par-5 15th before losing steam at the end of the scorching day, bogeying the 18th and missing padding her lead to three.”I didn’t expect to go under. I was looking at a 3-over start which I think is good given the long layoff,” said Ikeda. “But I still feel the pain (in my left hand) all throughout.”
Villacencio missed grabbing solo second as she matched flightmate Ikeda’s closing bogey for a 70, the same output put in by Avaricio after blowing a lone birdie on the par-3 11th with a bogey on the par-5 15th even as fancied Harmie Constantino and Princess Superal struggled with identical 74s.
Constantino, who marked her pro debut with a two-shot victory over Superal in the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Challenge last March before play was suspended, and Daniella Uy shared the early lead with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, with the unfancied Villacencio grabbing the spotlight next with back-to-back birdies from No. 4 before slipping to second with a bogey on the ninth.
But after a birdie-bogey card after eight holes, Ikeda took command on that hot frontside finish and held sway to the finish in an inspiring start for a player who pulled off a victory over Pauline del Rosario in sudden death with an injured hand to claim her last crown at the Tagaytay Midlands in 2019.
She then went on an on-and-off campaign trying to buck that injury, barely losing the Summit Point title by one to Korean Hwang Min-Jeong at the close of the seventh season of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. She also skipped the Eagle Ridge Challenge last March.
Superal, who ruled one of the two Riviera events in the LPGT’s initial restart after an eight-month hiatus late last year, actually stayed within striking despite a bogey on the opening hole. Another miscue on No. 7 and a double-bogey on the ninth, however, dropped the multi-titled shotmaker down the rankings although she fought back by birdying the last two par-5s to save a 74 (40-34) for joint fourth with Constantino, who birdied the last to salvage a 36-38, four strokes off Ikeda.
Uy ended up with a 77 for joint sixth with amateur Burberry Zhang while Sunshine Baraquiel lay another stroke back at 78 followed by Korean amateur Jane Jeong (80) and Monsalve (81) with two rounds left in the first of four events in Cavite in the next five weeks.