OBSCURE Albin Engino and legend Frankie Miñoza took different routes but produced the same results as they matched two-under 68s in varying fashions to seize control at the start of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Negros Occidental Golf Classic presented by MORE Power in Bacolod City Wednesday.
Engino, still in search of a breakthrough win in a long pro career, birdied two of the last four holes in a big frontside finish to save a 35-33, while Miñoza fumbled with a bogey No. 16 from the bunker in a late mishap that spoiled what could’ve been an explosive start for the multi-titled campaigner who posted his last victory here in 2016.
He signed for a 32-36 card that still netted him a shared view of the top with Engino, one stroke ahead of an equally hot-finishing Ira Alido and gutsy Korean rookie pro Hyun Ho Rho as majority of the stellar field struggled in the heat and wind around the short but tricky par-70 Marapara layout and ended up with soaring scores.
“I didn’t expect to go under. I just played it shot-by-shot and hole-by-hole. But it came out okay, so I’m so happy,” said Miñoza, whose mere presence in the tour crowded by young, long hitters continues to be a troubling sight for the rest of the bidders.
He tied for eighth in last month’s The Country Club Invitational.
“I’m just enjoying the game. The winds are strong and the greens vary—some are slow, others are fast,” said Miñoza, who beat Miguel Tabuena in sudden death here seven years ago for his last title win on the Philippine Golf Tour (PGT).
Engino likewise used a conservative approach to break a two-birdie, two-bogey card after 14 holes, birdying No. 6 then holing out with another feat on the ninth to join Miñoza at the helm.
“I played it safe and short throughout and made the most of my birdie chances,” said Engino, who wound up tied at 17th at TCC.
A mix of aces and lesser lights stayed in early contention with Ferdie Aunzo, Jun Bernis, Reymon Jaraula, Korean Kim Min Seong, Tony Lascuña, Gerald Rosales, Nilo Salahog and Rupert Zaragosa all matching par 70s for joint fifth, and Jhonnel Ababa, Mars Pucay, Bonifacio Salahog and Dino Villanueva carding identical 71s.
But things loom to get wilder in the next three rounds of the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit with Alido and Rho just behind by one after the former birdied the last two holes at the back for a 69 and the latter holding his ground against Van der Valk and fellow rookie Kristoffer Arevalo with a superb frontside spiked by a three-birdie string from No. 7.
That made up for a one birdie-two-bogey card after six holes but the 18-year-old winner of the recent PGT Q-School stumbled with a bogey on No. 11 then parred the rest for a 33-36 round he described as “solid.”
“I played solid although I struggled at the back because of my tee-shots that’s not just going straight and I had a hard time getting used to playing on this kind of grass,” said Rho. “But I’ll try to hit more fairways and hope to make some birdies.”
The likes of Clyde Mondilla, Van der Valk, Michael Bibat, Elmer Salvador and top rookies Jonas Magcalayo, Gab Manotoc and Arevalo also need to hit more birdies to survive the Top 40 and ties cut in the P2.25 million tournament put up by ICTSI.
Mondilla, the former Philippine Open champion who placed fifth at TCC, hardly recovered from a bogey-triple-bogey-bogey start with three birdies against two more bogeys for a 74 and a share of 27th, while Van der Valk birdied the first hole but went on an uncharacteristic double-bogey-bogey-double-bogey, double-bogey-birdie run from No. 3 and wound up with a 75 for joint 34th.
Bibat, winner at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last year, skied to a 77 marred by a bogey-par-bogey-double-bogey windup for a share of 48th, and Salvador, another multi-titled campaigner, limped with a birdie-less 78 in his PGT return for joint 54th
Unlike Rho, Magcalayo and Manotoc wavered with 79s for a share of 59th while Arevalo, a former national stroke play champion, shot himself in the foot with an 84 for 66th place.
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