ANGELO QUE drained a long putt for birdie on the 18th as he matched flight mate Ira Alido’s 68 for a one-stroke lead over four others at the start of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Valley Golf Challenge.
Que saved what could’ve been a rocky finish to an otherwise superb round on a steamy day at the Valley Golf Club Tuesday in Antipolo City.
The three-time Asian Tour winner actually threatened to rip the South course and blow the field with an eagle-spiked frontside 32 then hit another birdie on No. 10 to go 2-up over his nearest pursuers.
But bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15 enabled five others, including Alido, to gain a shared view of the top before the returning duo came away with late-hole feats to forge ahead with four-under cards.
Alido, who with Que and a couple of others vied in the Asian Development Tour leg in Thailand and missed the Villamor Philippine Masters two weeks ago, birdied the par-5 17th to cap his domination of the rolling layout’s long holes for a bogey-free pair of 34s while Que holed out from way out on the par-3 18th to the delight of the crowd atop the green and at the clubhouse veranda.
“It’s a long par-3 so I just wanted to make a par,” said Que of his closing feat set up by a 4-iron tee-shot that rested some 25 to 30 feet off the cup.
Alido was also on target. After saying he’s “currently playing at a high level mentally and physically and confident of his chances [to win] week-in and week-out,” he backed up his words with a solid result, birdying the first two par-5s (Nos. 5 and 7) and picking up another stroke on the 13th.
“I feel really well, feel good about my game. The course suits to my liking,” said Alido, seeking a follow-up to his come-from-behind victory in Bacolod last March. “I missed about 2 or 3 chances for easy birdies but nonetheless, it’s a bogey-free round and it’s good for me. I also saved a couple of pars that helped me get to the top.”
Zanieboy Gialon, who with Caliraya Springs leg winner Tony Lascuña competed in Taiwan during the PH Masters week, also birdied the 17th as he turned in a 69 to crowd Reymon Jaraula, Justin Quiban and Korean Chon Koo Kang at third while Lascuña recovered from miscues on Nos. 13 and 15 with a birdie, also on the 17th, as he saved a 70 for joint seventh with Albin Engino, Japanese Atsushi Ueda and rookie pro Gabriel Manotoc.
A former national team mainstay, Manotoc flourished in a backside start of three birdies in the first six holes as he crowded the seasoned Que atop the leaderboard. But he yielded shots on Nos. 17 and 2 before regaining his rhythm and gaining another stroke on the seventh for his strongest start yet in six tournaments of the ICTSI-backed circuit where he missed the cut just once.
Jhonnel Ababa, the come-from-behind winner at PH Masters, missed sustaining his birdie-birdie feat from No. 16 with a bogey on the last hole as he settled for a 71 in a tie with Dino Villanueva and amateur Aidric Chan.
Guido van der Valk likewise closed out with a bogey on the tough finishing hole after gunning down an eagle on the 17th as he signed for a 72 and a share of 14th with Art Arbole, Gerald Rosales, Elmer Salvador, Japanese and former Philippine Amateur champion Gen Nagai, Korean Min Seong Kim and Iloilo leg runaway winner Rupert Zaragosa.
The other fancied bets, however, floundered with Clyde Mondilla and Keanu Jahns ending up with 73s in the company of Joenard Rates, Ferdie Aunzo, Leandro Bagtas, Fidel Concepcion, Depilo, Arnold Villacencio, Gabo Santiago, Jelbert Gamolo and amateur Carl Corpus.
“On this course, it’s inevitable (to make mistakes), because it’s tight and you have to be in play all the time,” said Que, who hit errant drives that led to his two bogeys and blemished a scorching start punctuated by an eagle on No. 7 from 35 feet off a 3-hybrid second shot from 220 yards.
“Luckily, I read it right and it went in,” said Que of his eagle feat “Hopefully, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing to give myself a chance (to win).”
Image credits: Nonie Reyes