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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Chen bucks tough greens, heat to lead with 68

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TARLAC—Chinese Taipei’s Hsuan Chen flourished with a stunning backside charge, carding a four-under 68 in scorching conditions to grab a one-stroke lead over Thai Queen Meesom-us in the first round of the $100,000 ICTSI Luisita Ladies International 2024 here Tuesday.

Hsuan spiked her impressive performance with a string of birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 14 and 17 of the Luisita Golf and Country Club course, positioning her at the top of the leaderboard. Despite a slight stumble with a missed par-putt from 12 feet on the 18th, she maintained her lead as Meesom-us failed to sustain a birdie-birdie feat from No. 6 in a frontside finish and shot a 69.

The Taiwanese acknowledged the challenges posed by the unpredictable greens but remained confident in her game. Meesom-us, on the other hand, expressed adaptability to the hot weather conditions, drawing from her experience playing in similar climates back home.

“Although my driver and irons were fairly consistent today (Tuesday), I struggled with my putting due to the challenging nature of the greens. Some were fast while others were slower, making it difficult to find a consistent rhythm,” said Chen, reflecting on her ongoing quest for a breakthrough victory after five years on the tour.

Her round was marred by a three-putt miscue on No. 4, nestled between two birdies, and a mishit approach shot on the 18th that resulted in another bogey.

“Understanding the nuances of the speed (of the greens) is crucial here,” she said, alluding to the critical factor that could determine one’s success or failure in the 54-hole championship co-sanctioned by the TLPGA and the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

Meesom-us also flashed solid performances from tee-to-green, mirroring Chen and other early contenders, yet encountered challenges while navigating the tricky surfaces.

“I’m feeling pretty good about my game overall. My focus is to maintain this level of performance and translate it into strong results over the next two rounds,” said the 20-year-old talent from Chonburi.

While many players grappled with the hot weather conditions, Meesom-us remained unfazed, saying: “The heat here doesn’t bother me much because back home, it’s even hotter, so I’m accustomed to it.”

However, she underlined the importance of staying present and not getting ahead of herself.

“My goal is to stay focused, taking each shot as it comes. On this course, it’s crucial to stay in the moment. If you execute a good drive, everything tends to fall into place,” said Meesom-us.

The competition saw a tight race among players from the TLPGA, the Thai LPGA and the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with Punpaka Phuntumabamrung and Budsabakorn Sukapan, along with Chih-Yun Wu, matching 70s for joint third.

Florence Bisera initially surged into contention with a three-under card through 10 holes, putting pressure on the foreign aces. But her momentum waned towards the end as she stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 18, slipping from joint second to a share of sixth with a 71.

Expressing frustration over her finish, Bisera attributed her last bogey to a distraction caused by a passing golf cart. “I had set up for my approach shot after hitting a good drive, but then a golf cart passed by, disrupting my focus and causing me to mishit,” she rued.

Despite the shaky windup, the Davao native remained upbeat of her chances, highlighting her proficiency in driving and short game. “The greens pose a real challenge with their varying speeds. Plus, the extreme heat can be draining, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated,” said Bisera, underscoring the additional challenges faced by players in the tournament.

Other one-under par scorers were Sarah Ababa and Pamela Mariano, alongside Thais Wad Phaewchimplee and reigning Asian Games gold medalist PK Kongkraphan, who hit just one birdie against a run of pars for a 35-36 round.

Harmie Constantino also holed out with a bogey on No. 18 and settled for a 72 and a share of 11th with TLPGA players Chih-Min Chen, Han-Hsuna Yu and Thais Nattagate Nimitpongkul, Onkanok Soisuwat and Kultida Pramphun.

Chanelle Avaricio wavered with a 73 in a tie with Daniella Uy, Ya-Chi Chang, Chonlada Chayanun, Pear Pooratanaopa and Dussavi Soopimjit while Princess Superal turned in a 74 for joint 23rd with TLPGA’s No. 2 Yu-Ju Chen, Pakin Kawinpakorn, Unyong Polnamin, Nanthikarn Raksachat, Seoyun Kim and Gretchen Villacencio.

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