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LPGT: Chanelle Avaricio steals show on fiery frontside windup

Chanelle Avaricio sneaked past Princess Superal and ace amateur Rianne Malixi with a scorching frontside finish, birdying three of the last seven holes to shoot a two-under 70 and grab a one-stroke lead over the marked duo after 18 holes of the ICTSI Luisita Ladies Championship in Tarlac, Tuesday.

Avaricio, who scored a breakthrough at Riviera-Couples in last year’s third restart of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, banked on her solid approach shots on her way home at the front, setting up birdie chances from close range to gain a solo view of the top of the 54-hole championship.

“I played a pretty decent round. After a two-bogey, one-birdie card at the back, I recovered at the front – hit some good second shots that set up easy birdies,” said Avaricio, who seeks to dish out more of the same in today’s second round in a bid to bolster her title drive in the P750,000 championship put up by ICTSI.

“Same plan for tomorrow (today), good placing off the drive and be careful on the greens,” she said.

Superal and Malixi lived up to the pre-tournament hype in the featured threesome that included Chihiro Ikeda, slugging it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in a duel that sparked hopes for duo’s sustained control of the tournament after matching 34s after nine holes before finishing with 71s in hot conditions.

But three behind the pair with a backside 37, Avaricio stormed ahead as she found her rhythm and range at the front, scoring back-to-back birdies from No. 3 then gaining another stroke with a solid tee-shot on the par-3 No. 6.

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But lurking behind are the fancied duo. After a solid frontside, Superal hit an errant drive on No. 10 and had to play out from a stymied lie then failed to get up and down from five feet although she regained the stroke with another birdie on the par-5 16th.

The winner of three of the first five LPGT tournaments held in bubble setup last year, however, overshot the difficult par-3 No. 17, pitched short, and flubbed a par-saving putt from six feet.

“I think I missed a lot of putts, including birdie chances,” rued Superal who stressed the need for consistency, especially off the mound, given the tight fairways of the tree-lined layout.

Malixi, who dominated the SEA Games qualifier here to clinch the lone Hanoi berth early this month, held her ground in her first face-off with Superal, snapping a birdie-bogey game from No. 2 with birdies on Nos. 5 and 8 to draw level.

She seized control on Superal’s bogey on No. 10 but fell into a tie just as quickly after a miscue on the next before parring the rest.

“I played well, made a lot of putts,” said Malixi, who credited her impressive start for a sound short game. “But I didn’t play my best. Hopefully, I’ll be able to adjust by tomorrow and stay more confident.”

A slew of others also stayed in the hunt, including Riviera-Langer leg winner Daniella Uy, who traded two birdies with the same number of bogeys, for solo fourth at 72, while Ikeda blew a one-under card after 13 holes with three bogeys in the last five holes and wound up with a 74.

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Marvi Monsalve dropped two strokes on No. 17 and limped with a birdie-less 76, Pamela Mariano skied to a 77, while reigning LPGT Order of Merit winner Harmie Constantino, who won two legs in her rookie season last year, faltered in a frontside finish, bogeying No. 7 and dropping two strokes on each of the last two holes for a 79 for joint eighth with Gretchen Villacencio, nine strokes off Avaricio.

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