Lubao, Pampanga—Chanelle Avaricio broke out with a Tour record-setting seven-under frontside romp then recovered from a couple of mishaps at the back with three birdies in the last five holes to fire an eight-under 64 and post a whopping five-stroke lead over Pamela Mariano at the start of the ICTSI Pradera Verde Ladies Classic here yesterday.
A pair of three-birdie binges from Nos. 1 and 5 and another birdie on the ninth for a stirring 29 set Avaricio’s title drive in motion and left flightmates Martina Miñoza and amateur Kayla Nocum in awe while driving an early wedge between her and her fancied rivals in the 54-hole championship serving as the sixth leg of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
She credited her solid putting on her early surge then kept her composure when things had started to turn a little bit shaky at the back.
“I played really good and it had a lot to do with my putting, especially on the frontnine,” said Avaricio, who spiked her superb start with a chip-in feat from around 18 feet on No. 6.
“I struggled at the back but the whole day, I had a steady long game and then my putts just kept on dropping,” she added.
It was easily the best frontside performance by any player in the 10-year history of the ICTSI-backed tour and her mastery of the well-kept Pradera Verde layout in humid day eclipsed the previous best of 67s posted by Princess Superal and Thai Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro in the 2017 and 2018 editions, respectively, of the event.
More importantly, it gave her a big five-shot cushion that could be too tough for the rest to overcome.
But there are still 36 holes left for the likes of Mariano, Chihiro Ikeda, Harmie Constantino, Sarah Ababa and Sunshine Baraquiel to mount a challenge on a course that could yield low scores for one day and high for the next especially if the winds come into play.
Avaricio, however, is keen on sustaining her form in pursuit of a third championship in the last five tournaments she laced up with a couple of runner-up finishes at Mt. Malarayat and Splendido Taal.
“I’ll try to play as steady and hope that my putts will drop like today (yesterday),” said the winner at Hallow Ridge and Caliraya Springs stops of the Pilipinas Golf tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit.
“She played near-perfect,” said Miñoza, who birdied two of the last seven holes to save a 75, while Nocum, who made double bogeys on a couple of par-3s and bogeyed the last two holes for a 78, described Avaricio’s round as “amazing and fantastic.”
Mariano, playing in a threesome ahead of Avaricio’s, also sizzled early with three birdies in the first five holes but yielded strokes on Nos. 9 and 10, which she however recovered with birdies on Nos. 12 and 18, her opening round best 69 netting her solo second.
“My tee and regulation shots were good but I had a hard time on the greens,” said the Cagayan de Oro City find, who hit a pitch-in birdie on No. 2 but bogeyed the ninth on wrong clubbing.
She underscored the need to be more aggressive in the last two rounds to get a shot at a first championship.
Ikeda, the Manila Southwoods and Asia Global Technologies-backed winner at Mt. Malarayat, also blew a three-under card after 11 holes as she fumbled with three straight bogeys from No. 12 but birdied the last to card a 71 while former leg winner Ababa also birdied the 18th to salvage a 72 and tie Constantino, who holed out with a bogey, at fourth.
Baraquiel, out to make up for her backside foldup at Splendido that paved the way for amateur Mafy Singson’s title breakthrough, missed joining Ikeda at third with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17, ending up with a 73 for solo sixth, 11 strokes behind Avaricio, while Marvi Monsalve carded a 74 for seventh.
Eagle Ace Superal and Arnie Taguines matched 77s while Nocum and Mariel Tee turned in a pair of 78s in what promises to be a tight battle for low amateur honors that includes Aily Kidwell, who hobbled with an 83.