Swede Fredrik From and Seungjae Maeng of the US hit late birdies at the front to fire identical four-under 68s for a one-stroke lead over three local bets at the start of the PGT Asia Tour (PGTA) Qualifying School at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Wednesday.
From scorched the backside of the tight layout with three birdies, added another on No. 3 then drained in a fifth one on No. 8 to negate his lone bogey mishap on No. 4 and match Maeng’s 34-34 card in hot, windless condition.
Ira Alido and Keanu Jahns produced the best scores among the local bets, putting in a pair of solid 69s to put themselves in early contention for low medal honors in the 72-hole tournament where the top 60 plus ties will gain cards for Asia’s newest pro golf circuit kicking off next week with the $100,000 PGTA Aboitiz Invitational at Southwoods.
American John Michael O’Toole rallied at the back with two birdies and joined Alido and Jahns at third while Anthony Fernando, Randy Garalde, Indonesian Elki Kow, Canadian Lee Sang Gyun, Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, Cory Oride of the US and Aussie Ian Tonumaipe’a all turned in identical 70s.
Japanese Kazuma Shimaya and Englishman Grant Jackson, Swede Andreas Gronkvist and Thai Wisut Artjanawat all shot 71s to move in the upper half of the 112-player field from 17 countries chasing spots in the rich circuit put up by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) following the continued success of the men’s and ladies circuits of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
The top 80 players after 36 holes will advance to the final two rounds with the top 60 and ties gaining cards and joining the top 40 in the current Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit ranking in the new regional circuit backed by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Srixon, Callaway, Empire, NikeGolf, TaylorMade, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, Omnisource Int’l., Silicon Computer and Telecoms, Inc.
Mars Pucay and young Korean-American Micah Shin along with veteran Robert Pactolerin all matched par 72s for joint 23rd with James Bowen of the US, Singapore’s Dengshan Koh, Benjie Magada and Rolando Marabe Jr.
But Jobim Carlos, who with Jahns and Shin are among the players in the top 40 of the PGT OOM but who are all seeking to gain cards when the PGTA eventually holds tournaments abroad, groped for form with a three-over 75 for joint 52nd with 10 others.
After the Aboitiz Invitational, the next six tournaments in the PGTA calendar will also offer $100,000 each with the eighth event to stake $300,000, according to the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
After its inaugural season, the PGT Asia Tour, through the ICTSI, will be offering a total prize of US$1.7 million in 2018 and US$2 million in 2019 with plans to further increase the purse in the future.
More tournaments for the next two years are also being finalized and talks to hold future legs in other parts of Asia, particularly Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, are ongoing.