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Gabasa explodes with 69, trails leaders by 1 in Espirito Santo Trophy golf tilt

MANILA, Philippines – Junia Gabasa roared into strong contention in individual play with a three-under 69 to trail world No. 3 Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio of Spain and two others by just one stroke at the start of the Espirito Santo Trophy at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in UAE Wednesday.

The Cebuana ace’s stellar play also lifted the Philippines to joint 15th in a field of 36 in team play paced by Spain with a 137, spiked by Garcia-Poggio’s 68.

Rianne Malixi’s two-over 74 counted for the Filipinas’ total of 143, six strokes off Spain, as Grace Quintanilla skied to an 80 and didn’t count in the three-to-play, two-to-count format event ruled by Sweden via playoff over the US last year.

Meja Ortengren also took the individual crown for a Sweden sweep of the women’s titles in France.

Ortengren carded a 71 and tied for 19th after 18 holes of this year’s championship with Team Sweden at joint 10th with a 142.

After a run of four pars, Gabasa got going with a birdie on No. 5 then quickly picked herself up from a mishap on the sixth with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9.

The reigning national stroke play champion back home made it a three-string feat with another birdie on the 10th and tied Garcia-Poggio, Ireland’s Sara Byrne and Avani Prashanth of India at four-under with her fifth birdie on the par-3 15th.

But she failed to get up-and-down on the next and finished with a 35 for a 69, dropping to a tie with Thai Navaporn Soontreeyapas and eight others at fourth.

Malixi also made a big start with a birdie on No. 4 but yielded strokes on Nos. 6 and 9 and failed to recover although she holed out with a birdie on the 18th to check a bogey-bogey miscue from No. 16 in a finish she hoped would fire her up when the second round is fired off Thursday.

The ICTSI-backed shotmaker and world No. 73 fell to joint 64th in individual play.

Quintanilla actually turned in the most impressive start among the Pinay bets, birdying Nos. 2 and 4. But she double-bogeyed the fifth and dropped another stroke on the ninth to make the turn at 37.

She never recovered from there, bogeying No. 11 and closing out with six straight bogeys for a 43 and an 80 to tumble to joint 102nd in a field of 108.