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Late birdie lifts Ababa past Fortuna, Singson at Apo

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DAVAO—Sarah Ababa drained a lengthy birdie putt on No. 17 to spike a gutsy 72, pulling ahead by one over Mikha Fortuna and rookie Mafy Singson in an unpredictable start to the P1 million ICTSI Ladies Apo Golf Classic here Thursday.

Ababa’s dramatic putt from 24 feet on the penultima hole of the Apo course, where she honed her skills, brought stability to a rollercoaster round where the leaderboard witnessed constant changes with every missed shot and converted putt.

“Mahirap ang kondisyon ng course. Hindi naman ako nag-set ng goal, basta enjoy lang kasi home course ko naman ‘to (The course conditions are challenging. I didn’t set a goal, just enjoying it because this is my home course),” said Ababa, aiming to break a long nine-year title drought on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

She credited her father-caddie for providing valuable support, saying: “Malaking tulong ang father ko (My father was a big help). I played relaxed. In fact, after I bogeyed No. 1, he told me that it was a good start.”

Ababa, who edged Chihiro Ikeda and Korean Hwang Min Jeong at Sherwood Hills in 2015 for her career breakthrough, birdied the par-5 No. 3, yielded another stroke on the next then broke a run of pars with that big putt on the 17th.

But hot on her trail are two former national team standouts as Fortuna endured a tough frontside test, finishing with a birdie on the last hole to salvage a 73. Singson, on the other hand, bogeyed the 18th for a 38-35 and missed joining Ababa at the top.

“The course is narrow and the greens are pretty hard. It was colorful but tough day,” said Fortuna, eyeing a follow-up to her victory in the season-ending ICTSI Match Play Invitational last year.

“I had a challenging start, I only made two pars on the frontnine,” added Fortuna, who fumbled with five bogeys against two birdies in the first nine holes.

But she stayed patient throughout, picking up strokes on Nos. 10 and 13 and recovering from a mishap on the 17th with a closing birdie.

“With how I played, I think it was okay. I’m proud of myself, how I was able to stay composed,” she said. “It was a tough battle throughout, it requires a different strategy and I hope for the best tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Singson noted the challenging ball bounces on Apo’s tight fairways, leading to some bad kicks and resulting in bogeys. Despite mixed fortunes on the greens, she lamented the difficult pin placements.

“They’re hiding the pin placements on the sides, you can’t really tell where your ball gonna go, given the tough conditions,” said Singson, eyeing to mark her pro debut with a victory after winning two LPGT legs as an amateur at Splendido Taal and Valley Golf the past two years.

Several other contenders stayed in the mix of the 54-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Chanelle Avaricio turning in a 75 marred by a double bogey on No. 10 and marked by three birdies against four bogeys for solo fourth, and Harmie Constantino posting a 76 for fifth.

Reigning Order of Merit winner Daniella Uy struggled with a 77 while Florence Bisera carded a 78 for a share of seventh with Miya Legaspi and Gretchen Villacencio.

Apple Fudolin birdied the first and last holes but faced challenges in between, including a triple-bogey on No. 9, as she ended up with a 79 in a tie with Laurea Duque.

Many-time national team mainstay Lois Kaye Go, however, had a birdie-less 81 for joint 12th with former OOM winner Ikeda.


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