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Mikha Fortuna, Laurea Duque pull off stunners in LPGT match play opener

Mikha Fortuna initiated the play right at the start of the ICTSI The Country Club Match Play Invitational, eliminating the top seed and defending champion Harmie Constantino with a significant surge late in their backside start at the TCC course in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Tuesday.

In a thrilling exhibition of skill and determination, Fortuna pulled ahead in a fierce duel, securing Nos. 15, 16, and 17.

Although Constantino won No. 18 with a four-foot birdie set up by a superb approach shot while battling the gusts, Fortuna reasserted her dominance in the last nine holes, clinching a convincing 5&3 victory and advancing to the quarterfinals.

“The key was my driving and putting. I stayed out there as much as I could,” said Fortuna, the former amateur standout who fell short in her breakthrough bid in the regular LPGT on at least two occasions. “I took it one shot at a time and stayed focused on my game plan all day.”

Amateur Laurea Duque also delivered a compelling performance, overcoming the second seed Florence Bisera with a late surge. She won the par-5 No. 8 on their way home and secured a 1-up escape, setting up a quarterfinal clash with Apple Fudolin, who edged past Rev Alcantara for a similar 1-up victory.

“Our match was intense. I birdied No. 6 to draw level and made a 10-footer for par on the next to keep it all-square,” said Duque, who then sank a two-foot birdie putt on the eighth to snatch the lead. “Yvonne played well, but I think the key holes were on Nos. 6 and 7.”

Fortuna, ranked last in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour field of 16, faces Seoyun Kim for a spot in the semifinals after the young Korean repelled amateur and two-time LPGT winner Mafy Singson, 2-up, in their head-to-head battle.

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“I’m not going to change much. I just need to be patient and take it day-by-day,” said Fortuna when asked about her plans against the Korean. Singson had hoped to extend the match on the 18th, but Kim proved steadier, winning the contested hole to prevail by two holes.

However, the other favored contenders cruised to victories as former OOM winner Chihiro Ikeda rolled past Eva Miñoza, 8&7, in the most lopsided result posted in the P1.5 million championship, which drew the top finishers after the 10-leg LPGT at various championship courses in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

“I played steady. The course is the opponent here; just don’t get tired and make mistakes, and I think I’ll have a chance,” said Ikeda, who will face Pamela Mariano next after the latter repulsed Lovelynn Guioguio, 4&2, in the other pairing in the upper half of the draw.

Meanwhile, Sarah Ababa put away Lucy Landicho, 4&2, to set up a quarterfinal duel with Gretchen Villacencio, who held a shaky 1-up lead after 17 holes but won the last to frustrate Christine Fleetwood, 2-up.

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