The title chase in the third restart of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour next week suddenly turned wide open as multi-titled Princess Superal withdrew from the ICTSI Aoki Classic at Eagle Ridge to embark on a Japan mission.
Superal was actually all set to go for a third championship after sweeping the Sherwood Hills and Eagle Ridge-Norman legs last July before the circuit went on another hiatus due to the spike of coronavirus cases in NCR Plus last July.
But the 2019 LPGT Order of Merit winner received her Japanese visa the other day, paving the way for her re-entry in the first stage of three qualifying tournaments for the LPGA of Japan Tour and Step Up Tour set Nov. 23-26 in Gunma Prefecture, Mie Prefecture and Hyogo Prefecture.
She will leave on Nov. 5 for quarantine and isolation protocols.
That sets up an exciting, wide-open battle for top honors in the P750,000 Aoki Classic firing off Nov. 3 with no player holding a distinct advantage over the other, mainly due to lack of competitive play the last three months.
But the compact field has stayed in shape during the hiatus through regular practice and range forays although actual competition remains a far more different arena for these touring ladies.
But the sheer desire to shine will be more than enough motivation although Harmie Constantino has an added push as she would be heading back to the very site where she marked her pro debut with a victory over no less than the likes of Superal and Pauline del Rosario last March.
A slew of bidders, however, is also coming into the 54-hole championship hungry for recognition, including Chanelle Avaricio, twice foiled by Superal the last time out, LPGA of Taiwan Tour veterans Daniella Uy, Cyna Rodriguez and Marvi Monsalve, and former leg winners Chihiro Ikeda and Sarah Ababa, thus ensuring a fierce, wild battle of shotmaking and putting in all three days.
Others vying in the event are Sheryl Villacencio, Apple Fudolin, Majorie Palumbarit, Pamela Mariano, Eva Miñoza, Lovelyn Guioguio, Sunshine Baraquiel and Florence Bisera.
Gretchen Villacencio, meanwhile, has also pulled out of the event for medical reasons but has committed to play in the next LPGT bubble tournament, the ICTSI Tagaytay Highlands Challenge on Nov. 9-11.
Like in the past LPGT events held during the pandemic, the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. is imposing strict guidelines and protocols to ensure the health and safety of all those involved as per the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) guidelines.
The PGTI staged its first restart in late 2020 following an eight-month hiatus with Superal and Del Rosario splitting top honors at Riviera. It then kicked off its 2021 season last March with Constantino humbling Superal by two right in her first pro tournament at Aoki.
But another spike in Covid cases prompted the PGTI to suspend play again.
The PGTI is likewise finalizing details to hold two more tournaments back at Riviera, also next month.