CHIHIRO Ikeda may have suffered a stunning defeat in the 48th Philippine Ladies Open, but the chubby shotmaker from Davao City is still considered the heavy favorite when the Southern Ladies Golf Tournament fires off Feb. 4-6 at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.

The 18-year-old Ikeda and the country's top golfing ladies, including members of the national pool and upcoming stars, take the spotlight as they slug it out for top honors in the annual event.

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Events on tap are the individual, team competition and seniors division with the LAM-Am and practice round set on February 3.

With last year's champion Crystal Shin of Korea opting to turn professional, the fight for top honors will now be among the local bets, headed by the crack ICTSI golf team that includes Ikeda, a Southeast Asian Games dounle gold medal winner in Lao.

Also in the field is Ikeda's teammate Dottie Ardina, along with the other top players of the country's various clubs.

Although she fell short of her bid to reclaim the RP Ladies Open crown she won in 2008 with a third place finish last Friday, Ikeda remains the player to watch in the tournament organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

Ardina, two-time national champion Anya Tanpinco, Sarah Jane Ababa of Davao City, Andie Unsonare, Irina Gabasa, Apple Fudolin and a host of others are also expected to come into the 54-hole tournament in top form and foil Ikeda's title bid.

The individual competition is set over 54 holes and will use the Molave scoring format while the seniors and team event, a four-to-play, three-to-count format, will be played in the first two days over 36 holes using the Stableford scoring system (net of handicap).

Aside from the centerpiece Championship Flight, other titles to be disputed are Classes A, B, C and D. The seniors division will be for players 55 years old and above.

Tagaytay Highlands, Wack Wack, Manila Golf, Iligan Golf, Bacolod, del Monte, Cebu CC, Valley Golf, Riviera, Sta. Elena, Alabang, Phil. Navy and Pamplona head the early entries in the event.