Legaspi, Briones and Superal

by Rey Bancod

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar – The team that nearly did not make the national delegation delivered two gold medals in the 27th Southeast Asian Games Wednesday.

Princess Superal capped a sensational Games debut by winning the individual event by six shots and powered the team to the crown, beating Myanmar by a whopping 11 strokes.

“I woke up at 3:48 a.m. and couldn’t sleep after. I was so excited,” said the 16-year-old prodigy who turned in an even par 72 Wednesday.

“The only time I was nervous was during the first three holes. But after that, I started to relax,” she grinned.

Superal, who had a sparkling 66 Tuesday, breezed through the first nine with consecutive pars, including No. 11 where she dropped a six-footer to save par.

At the turn, Superal overshot a downhill putt from 16 feet on the 10th and failed to find the cup coming back for her first bogey. She recovered it with a birdie on No. 4 before dropping a shot on the next after missing the green.

Superal promptly birdied the par-5, No. 6 and cruised home with three straight pars.

Teammates Mia Legaspi and Katherine Briones rushed to the green to give Superal a hug.

Legaspi, a 15-year-old high school student at St. Paul’s Pasig, rallied to salvage a 72 while Briones dropped four shots in the first four holes and did not count with a 79.

Superal dominated the individual event at six-under 210. Yin May Myo of Myanmar took the silver at 216 and Tatiana Jaqueline Wijaya settled for the bronze at 217.

The Filipinas were never in trouble and finished the 54-hole event at 428. Myanmar took the silver with 439, one shot ahead of Thailand.

It marked the first time the Filipinas swept the competition since Jennifer Rosales and Dorothy Delasin did the trick in the nineties.

But for a while, the women’s team failed to pass the stringent criteria sent by a task force back home.

National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) president Tommy Manotoc fought for the inclusion of the team, citing the 1-2 finish of Legaspi and Superal in the Asian Youth Games in August.

The task force relented and wrote organizers if it could make a last-ditch addition to the national delegation.

Two weeks before the Games, the women’s team was told to go.

The win capped a magnificent year for Superal who has collected more than 10 victories here and abroad.

Overshadowed by the women’s spectacular sweep was the forgettable showing of the men’s squad, despite the 67 scored by Rupert Zaragosa in the final day.

The Filipinos finished sixth in a field of seven with 866, 28 shots behind gold medallist Thailand.

Justin Quilban shot 71 and John Kier Abdon contributed 73 for the team’s final round output. Jobim Carlos’ 74 did not count.

Thailand also posted a sweep of the men’s division.