Malaysia's Kelie Kan Kah Yan shoots out of the rough at the 14th hole during the first round of the Queen Sirikit Cup at Saujana GCC on Wednesday. - SS KANESAN/ The Star
SUBANG: Claire Legaspi led the way for the Philippines as the SEA Games champions tied favourites South Korea after the opening round of the Asia Pacific Ladies Invitational Golf Team Championship for the Queen Sirikit Cup.
The bespectacled 16-year-old from Manila fired a three-under 69 to top the individual contest at the Saujana Golf and Country Club, combining with Princess Mary Superal (74) for a one-under 143 overall score yesterday.
Regional powerhouse South Korea underlined their intention to clinch a record sixteenth crown, with Lee So-young and Park Gyeol carding a one-under 71 and even-par 72 respectively to take a share of the lead.
China, led by British Junior Open champion Shi Yuting (70) were two strokes adrift in third alongside Japan on 145, while defending champions Australia and India were tied fifth on 147.
The best two gross scores contribute to the team’s daily score with the team returning the lowest gross score at the end of the 54-hole tournament walking off as champions.
The Philippines are eyeing their first-ever victory and Legaspi noted that her strong performance will keep the team spirit high ahead of today’s second round.
“We came to Malaysia feeling pretty good about our chances and I was really delighted to give my team a strong early push.
“I had a great round overall – drove the ball well, kept it clean from the fairways and putted nicely,” said Legaspi.
Having missed out on a sixth consecutive title last year, South Korea are hoping to overcome the hot and humid conditions as they seek to better their runners-up finish in Taiwan last year.
“It was really hot out there and it was difficult to maintain my composure. I was struggling with my approach shots on the front nine but I kept my energy levels up by drinking lots of water.
“It took a while for me to get my rhythm but I’m confident that my team-mates and I can go lower tomorrow,” said the 17-year-old So-young.
Meanwhile, hosts Malaysia stumbled on the opening day chalking up a 157 score to lie joint 12th with Singapore.