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Del Rosario stands in the way of Superal for ICTSI crown

photograph courtesy of LPGT PAULINE Del Rosario hopes to ride on the momentum entering the final round.

A showdown between Philippine golf’s rising queens is taking shape.

Pauline del Rosario birdied No. 18 from 14 feet to shoot a 69 then — on a separate flight — watched Princess Superal hole out with a bogey for a 71 on Wednesday.

That alone was enough to provide a dramatic backdrop for the ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championship title featuring two of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour stalwarts.

Del Rosario’s strong finish coupled with Superal’s shaky windup after a bungled par putt from 10 feet revived their long-standing rivalry from their junior golf days.

They matched 142s to seize a three-stroke lead over Harmie Constantino, who assembled a 145 after a 73, in the P1-million, 54-hole championship.

But, of course, no lead is safe at the challenging Caliraya Springs Golf Club.

Aside from Constantino, also posing a threat are former champion Chanelle Avaricio, who carded a second 73; and last year’s Match Play winner Mikha Fortuna, who charged back with a 71. They are tied for fourth at 146.

Apo leg winner Sarah Ababa rebounded from a 75 with a 73 to join Mafy Singson, who faltered with a 75, at 148, while reigning Order of Merit winner Daniella Uy birdied two of the last five holes to rescue a 71 and move to solo eighth place at 149.

Erstwhile co-leader Pamela Mariano struggled with a 79 after an impressive 71, tumbling down to joint ninth with Seoyun Kim, who carded a 74 at 150, now eight strokes off the lead.

Looking ahead to the final 18 holes of the third leg of the circuit put up by ICTSI, Del Rosario remarked on the familiarity of competing against the former US Girls’ Junior champion in decisive moments, anticipating a thrilling face-off between two of the circuit’s Order of Merit champions.

“We have played together in the final group a lot growing up. It’s nothing new for us and we will both be excited to be paired again tomorrow (Thursday),” said Del Rosario, who birdied two of the first nine holes to rebound from an opening 73.

Despite trading birdies and bogeys across the back nine, Del Rosario’s determination shone through, especially motivated by the presence of her father, Bong, who was watching her play for the first time since the pandemic began.

“Managing around the greens is my concern. But my goal and my mindset is to make my dad proud,” said the defending champion prepping up for the Epson Tour this month.

Superal, who shared the first day honors with Mariano, took solo control with a two-under card after 10 holes then negated her bogeys on Nos. 12 and 15 with back-to-back birdies from No. 16 to post a two-shot lead over Del Rosario. But she failed to get up-and-down on the last hole and settled for a second straight 71.

Superal, the 2022 Asia Pacific Cup winner, acknowledged her short game as a crucial factor in her performance but highlighted the importance of precision with her iron shots to challenge Del Rosario’s bid for a second consecutive title.

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