Pagdanganan off to hot start

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BIANCA Pagdanganan chips into the green on no. 16 at the start of the Philippine Amateur Open Golf Championships yesterday at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

SILANG, Cavite — Bianca Pagdanganan outduelled Atthaya Thitikul in a thrilling frontside shootout, coming away with a blistering charge to fire a four-under 67 and wrest a two-stroke lead at the start of the Philippine Amateur Open Golf Championships at Riviera’s Langer course here yesterday.

The Asian Games gold medalist bucked the wind and birdied four of the first seven holes at the front, rallying from two down off teammate Lois Kaye Go and one off Thitikul to seize control in the early going of the 72-hole championship.

“The wind was so strong so I had to analyze everything. But I played aggressive at the front and got my birdies,” said Pagdanganan, enjoying top form coming off a victory in last week’s National Doubles with Jed Dy.

The 21-year-old former Philippine Ladies Amateur champion actually had a mediocre two-birdie, two-bogey backside start, enabling Go, playing in a flight ahead of Pagdanganan, Thitikul and Singapore’s Callista Chen, to take charge early on a strong start at the backside of the hazard-laden par-71 layout.

Go birdied three of the first four holes to negate a bogey on no. 14 and took command with a 34. But she bogeyed the first two holes at the front and hobbled with a 37 to slip to third with a 71.

The fancied Thitikul, who won the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific crown in Singapore last year, edged Pagdanganan after nine holes, 35-36, but failed to match the Pinay ace’s scorching frontside charge, settling for one birdie for a 34 and 69.

Linna Loh, also of Singapore, carded a 73 for fourth while Korean Kang Da Yun shot a 76 and Mikha Fortuna groped for form with a pair of 40s for an 80 in a tie with Inez Ng of Singapore and Bernice Ilas with Chen limping with an 81 with half of the 111-player field, including 80 in the men’s side, still to complete play at presstime.

Korean Jang Sun Hun, meanwhile, took the clubhouse lead in the men’s division, taking advantage of an early tee-start with a 32 at the front before fumbling with a 37 for a 69.

Singapore’s Lucius Toh matched par 71 while Cebu’s Weiwei Gao turned in a one-over 72 in the event organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

Japanese Atsushi Ueda shot a 73 while Thai Vanchai Luangnitikul and Korean Kim Tae Soo struggled with 74 and 75, respectively, with the country’s top bets, led by Aidric Chan, Carl Corpus, Paolo Wong, Josh Jorge and Dy, still out on the fairway.

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