Hwang wards off Saso’s assault, wins by 8

Korean Hwang Ye-nah hits a superb bunker shot to save par on No. 18 and complete her eight-shot victory over Fil-Japanese amateur Yuka Saso in the ICTSI Champion Tour at Malarayat Friday.

LIPA City, Batangas – Hwang Ye-nah bucked a shaky start and Yuka Saso’s brilliant surge, carding a three-under 69 and coasting to an eight-stroke win over the Fil-Japanese for another wire-to-wire triumph in the ICTSI Champion Tour at Malarayat here yesterday.

But just when she thought she had the title under wraps with 66-69 and an eight-stroke lead with 18 holes to play, the young Korean needed to overcome a bogey start with four birdies in the next 12 holes then settled for pars the rest of the way to secure the victory in the $75,000 event presented by Champion.

She also had to watch Saso’s sizzling performance fizzle out in the end after the Fil-Japanese amateur went on an eight-birdie splurge after 14 holes in a flight ahead to move within six from 11 down. But after that hot surge, the reigning World Juniors Girls champion lost steam and bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 to finish with a 66.

That enabled Hwang to coast to victory at 12-under 204, duplicating her maiden triumph on local soil in the 2015 ICTSI Ladies Open at Southlinks where she led from start to finish then held off Princess Superal in the clutch to win by one.

This time there was hardly a stretch-run pressure to withstand although Saso did spark some hopes for the local bets, who remained winless on events co-sanctioned by the Taiwan LPGA despite the presence of the Symetra Tour campaigners.

“I’m happy I made it on my first try here,” said Hwang, referring to the Mt. Malarayat composite course which she tamed with solid shotmaking, superb short game and impeccable putting in all three days.

The 22-year-old Daejong native, who bogeyed No. 1 but birdied Nos. 4, 7, 9 and 13 to string a 34-35 and match amateur Harmie Constantino’s eight-shot win over Thai Saraporn Chamchoi here last year, vowed to defend her crown next year.

“Definitely, I’ll be back next year,” said Hwang after receiving her trophy and prize worth $15,000 from Malarayat chairman Antonio Turalba and general manager Argy Garcia.

Hwang’s 12-under total also stood as the new record in ladies play, besting Constantino’s 11-under feat.

Saso, who powered the Philippines to the team championship and took the individual crown in last year’s third World Juniors Girls Championship in Canada, went on a birdie-spree, hitting five, including three straight to close out the frontnine. After two pars she rattled off another three-birdie string from No. 12 and though she stood six shots off Hwang, she looked headed to setting a new course mark.

But she missed the green on the next two holes and failed to go up-and-down then negated her birdie on No. 17 with another wet bogey on the finishing hole for that tournament-best matching six-under card and a 212 for runner-up honors in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Saso also took the low amateur honors for the second straight week.

Thai Chatprapa Siriprakob fired a 70 to finish third at 213 and claim the second prize of $7,500 while Superal wound up fourth at 215 after a 71 and took the $4,500 third purse in the event sponsored by ICTSI, BDO, Champion, Custom Clubmakers, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Titleist and Event Captain.

Korean amateur Hwang Min-jeong, winner here in 2015, matched par 72 and ended up fifth at 216 while 2016 Philippine Ladies Masters champion Saranporn Langkulgasettrin of Thailand ended up sixth at 218 after a 73 worth $3,150.

Cyna Rodriguez turned in a 74 and finished seventh at 221 while Thais Pakpring Duangchan (70) and Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro (71) and Malaysian Michele Low (74) tied for eighth at 222.

Rookie pro Pauline del Rosario, who placed joint second at ICTSI Champion Tour at Splendido last week, shot a 73 and wound up tied with Mia Piccio, who hobbled with a 76, at 15th at 224 while Dottie Ardina carded a 74 and ended up at joint 28th with 229.