ANTIPOLO CITY — Sarah Ababa dished out a career-low round of five-under 66 and took full command after 18 holes of the ICTSI Forest Hills Classic — four strokes clear of Daniella Uy and Mikha Fortuna in Cogeo here Tuesday.
Two birdies from pin-length high, a chip-in feat, and another couple of drained putts from the fringe highlighted Ababa’s pair of 33s at the par-71 hilly Nicklaus course. The Davaoeña ace put herself on track toward ending a winless campaign since securing her first victory at Sherwood Hills way back in 2015.
“This is my best round (as a pro) but this is my first tournament here,” said Ababa in Filipino, who tied for third with amateur Lois Kaye Go in the last Ladies Philippine Golf Tour leg at Valley.
Ababa, who birdied Nos. 1, 3. 11, 12 and 17 — all par-4s, added she was motivated by the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.’s recent ruling setting a cut (85) after 18 holes. The move hopes to further improve the quality of play in the women’s side of the two-pro circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
“There was an effort, for sure, to do better. I practiced hard (at Orchard) and stayed patient all throughout, especially off the mound since the fairways are narrow,” said Ababa, who also bucked the heat and the wind which blew at regular intervals.
‘This is my best round (as a pro) but this is my first tournament here.’
Uy matched Ababa’s two-birdie feat in the first three holes to co-share the lead in the P1-million tournament and the former Junior World champion pulled ahead with another birdie on No. 10, only to yield it after Ababa’s back-to-back feats from No. 11 coupled with her bogeys on Nos. 12 and 17.
Uy is also chasing a second win after topping the Riviera leg in bubble setup in 2021. She ended up with a 70, which Fortuna matched in a 35-35 round marked by an eagle on No. 6 and birdies on Nos. 12 and 16 against three bogeys.
After winding up eighth in her maiden pro tournament at Valley with a closing 80, Fortuna birdied two of the first seven holes at the back to get going then recovered from a two-bogey mishap (Nos. 18 and 5) with an eagle on the par-5 sixth.
But the former University of Oklahoma mainstay missed seizing solo second with another miscue on the par-3 seventh. She is now at joint second while Apple Fudolin likewise posted her best start in year with a two-birdie, two-bogey card for solo fourth with 71.
Florence Bisera, meanwhile, squandered a two-under card after 10 holes with four bogeys against a birdie in the last five holes. She wound up with a 72 to slip to a share of fifth with Korean Min Yeong Kim, who bogeyed two of the last four. Go finished with a 74 for a share of seventh with Rev Alcantara.
Harmie Constantino, the pre-tournament favorite with back-to-back victories at Luisita and Villamor, groped for form all day, limping with three double bogeys and three bogeys against three birdies as she fell to joint 10th at 77 with Korean Ju Young Yang.
That enabled Junior PGT campaigner Kiara Montebon to grab solo ninth with a gutsy 75 marked by three birdies but marred by five bogeys and a double bogey.
Like Constantino, multi-titled Chihiro Ikeda faltered, making seven bogeys without a birdie to show in a 78 card, while Eva Miñoza and Shery Villasencio shot 86 and 89, respectively, and missed the first round cut.