YUKA Saso sprang back from a second round meltdown with a gutsy one-over 73 in severe condition as she regained the solo lead in individual competition and helped pad the Philippines lead to eight in team play in the third round of the World Junior Girls Championship in Mississaugua, Ontario, Canada Thursday.
Diminutive Harmie Constantino also bucked howling wind and heavy rain at the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club and turned in a second straight 75 as Team Phl pooled a 148 for a 433, eight strokes ahead of defending champion South Korea, which had a 441 after a 149, heading to the final 18 holes of the third staging of the event conducted by Golf Canada and supported by the International Golf Federation and R&A.
US limped with a 153 and slid to third at 445 while erstwhile joint second running China struggled with a 154 for a 446 and Germany shot a 150 to tie Italy, who groped for a 154, at 448 as the field failed to match the Filipinas’ grit and big fighting heart under demanding condition.
“I am happy and honored to have re-taken the lead,” said Saso, who bounced back from a 77 that didn’t count in the second round with a two-birdie, three-bogey effort to regain the solo lead at even 216. “I wasn’t expecting it though.”
Neither did her fellow 15-year-old Constantino, who actually blew a two-under card after five holes with five bogeys the rest of the way. Still, her 219 put her back in joint second with Korean Hee Jung Lim and Chinese Du Mohan, who shot 75 and 76, respectively.
“It wasn’t anybody’s expectation for us to be on top at the moment,” said Constantino. “It was a challenge being an underdog coming into the tournament and proving that you are more than that.”
Sofia Legapsi, whose 75 counted for the team in the second round, faltered with an 85 and didn’t figure this time for Team Phl, whose campaign is sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
But Saso and Constantino took care of business with the duo keeping their poise under heavy rain and yowling wind that stymied the bids of the rest of the field. Saso bogeyed the opening hole but fought back with a birdie on the fifth then rebounded from bogey mishaps on Nos. 9 and 11 with a closing birdie from six feet to regain a three-stroke lead.
While team competitions offer a different dynamic in golf tournaments, Constantino appreciates the chance to not only play with teammates but also a familiar friend.
“It feels good. I’ve known Yuka since I was eight and we have been together since. So it feels good to be with her now,” said Constantino, a be-medalled player back home.