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LPGT: Velinda Castil hobbles but recovers to regain Del Monte lead


Unfazed by a shaky start on the front nine, Velinda Castil mounted an impressive comeback, a rarity for a junior golfer.

She birdied two of the last four holes to salvage a second consecutive 73, bringing her back to where she began – at the top of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship leaderboard.

Castil’s birdies on Nos. 15 and 18 compensated for her double-bogey on the first hole and a bogey on the ninth. Her late surge was particularly notable on a rain-interrupted day when Harmie Constantino and Daniella Uy encountered difficulties on Del Monte Golf Club’s challenging finishing holes and dropped down the leaderboard.

With a total score of 146 and a one-shot lead over her closest pursuer, Pamela Mariano, the 15-year-old Castil openly acknowledged feeling the pressure as she vied for her first title in a professional tournament. Doubts began to creep into her young mind.

“Medyo kinakabahan ako kasi 1-up lang ang lamang ko,” said Castil, who is coming off a runner-up finish in the 15-18 age group category of the Junior PGT VisMin Classic at Pueble de Oro last Sunday, earning her a spot in next month’s national finals.

“Sana lang, bukas, ma-maintain ko lang ang score ko,” she added.

The Manolo Fortich native is now just 18 holes away from potentially becoming the youngest—and the first junior golfer—to win on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour. Previously, amateur Princess Superal won the final leg of the LPGT’s inaugural season in Baguio in 2013 at the age of 16.

However, Castil faces a couple of hungry professional contenders, including Mariano, who rallied with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to post the day’s best score of 71, bringing her total to 147.

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“I just enjoyed the game and was able to correct some of my mistakes in the first round,” said Mariano, referencing her significant improvement from a first-round 76.

Unlike her performance in her first LPGT attempt at Mount Malarayat last year, where she finished tied for fourth after a final round 77, the 25-year-old shotmaker is more confident this time, stating, “I think familiar ako sa greens, mas kabisado ko ang speed at play ng greens dito.”

Yvon Bisera, the runner-up to Uy in the last LPGT leg at Forest Hills, carded a second consecutive 74, totaling 148 and trailing Castil by just two strokes. She shares this score with amateur Mafy Singson, the runaway winner at Valley, who also rebounded from a three-over card with birdies on Nos. 11 and 15.

“Okay lang ang laro pero me mga holes naman talaga na nagkakamali,” said Bisera, pointing to her three-bogey skid from No. 6 marred by a three-putt mistake on the seventh hole, where she missed a birdie opportunity and a short-range par-putt bid.

Abby Abarcas, the other junior golfer who tied Bisera for second in the first round of the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and sponsored by PGTI’s official apparel, Kampfortis Golf, made four bogeys against a birdie, falling to joint fifth at 149 after a 75.

Uy shared the lead with a front-nine score of 36 but struggled with a bogey-bogey finish, ultimately carding a 74 and joining Abarcas’ group, which includes Koreans Ju Young Yang and amateur Jiwon Lee, who shot 78 and 76, respectively.

Constantino initially mounted a charge from four shots behind with birdies on Nos. 4 and 9, posting the best front-nine score among the 25-player field. However, she stumbled with a double-bogey on No. 11 and dropped a stroke on the 13th, ending up with a 73. She now sits at joint ninth at 150, four strokes behind Castil, along with Apple Fudolin and Korean Min Yeong Kim, who carded 74 and 72, respectively.

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