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Fortuna, Duque open LPGA match play with upset wins

SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Mikha Fortuna stirred up play right at the start of the ICTSI The Country Club Match Play Invitational, bundling out top seed and defending champion Harmie Constantino behind a big charge late in their backside start at the TCC course here Tuesday.

In an exhilarating display of skill and determination, Fortuna pulled ahead in a fierce duel as she took Nos. 15, 16 and 17. Though Constantino won No. 18 with a four-foot birdie set up by a superb approach shot while battling the gusts, the former re-asserted her might in the last nine holes to pound out a convincing 5&3 victory and advance to the quarterfinals.

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

Amateur Laurea Duque likewise produced a compelling performance, overcoming second seed Florence Bisera with a late surge, winning the par-5 No. 8 on their way home and hacking out a 1-up escape to set up a quarters clash with Apple Fudolin, who shouldered herself past Rev Alcantara for a similar 1-up victory.

“Our match was really intense. I birdied No. 6 to draw level for the match and made a 10-footer for par on the next to keep it all-square,” said Duque, who then drilled in a two-foot birdie putt on the eighth to snatch the lead.

“Yvonne played really well but I think the key holes were on Nos. 6 and 7,” added Duque.

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 side of the head-to-head battle.

“I’m not going to change much. I just really need to be patient and take it day-by-day,” said Fortuna when asked of 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.

The other fancied bets, however, cruised to victories as former OOM winner Chihiro Ikeda rolled past Eva Miñoza, 8&7,