Abe Avena rode on a solid backside stint to fire a two-under 70 and post a four-stroke lead over Rolly Viray at the start of the Seniors Open of the 2016 Philippine Senior and Mid-Amateur Open Championship at Summit Point Golf and Country Club in Lipa City, Batangas on Wednesday.
Avena checked a roller-coaster ride of three birdies and three bogeys at the front with birdies on No. 12 and 13 as he strung up a 36-34 to take charge in the centerpiece division of the annual event sponsored by MVP Sports Foundation, hosted by Summit Point and organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
Viray hit three birdies but fumbled with five bogeys to card a 74 while Benjie Sumulong faltered with a 39 for a 76, six behind Avena with two rounds left in the 54-hole tournament serving as part of the PLDT Group National Amateur Tour and backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and a qualifier for the 2015 Asian Pacific Golf Confederation national seniors squad.
Alan Alegre made a 78, Dave Hernandez and Jose Mari Hechanova carded identical 79s, Daniel Samaniego made an 81, Japanese Sengyo Kato and Rudy Amata shot identical 82s, Jose Iñigo made an 83 and Rex Goquingco and Francis Gaston turned in 85 and 87, respectively.
Richard Salcedo, meanwhile, took charge in the Mid-Am Open category despite a closing 40, his 77 netting him a one-stroke lead over Gerald Katigbak, who had a 78, while Takuya Kawamura of Japan put himself in contention with an 80.
Rupert Zaragosa, on the other hand, flashed top form to shoot a 70 and open a five-shot lead over Jolo Magcalayo in the invitational Elite Amateur Open.
The veteran internationalist, a national champion and junior titlist gunned down three birdies to negate his long bogey mishap on No. 15 to dominate the first round action of the event where the top two will also be nominated for the Vietnam Amateur Open set June 23-26 at the Sacom Golf Resort.
Kristoffer Arevalo stayed in the hunt for the second berth with a 76 along with Luigi Guerrero, who had a 77, while Jan De Claro shot a 78 and Earl Morley shot a 79 followed by Adrian Romero (80), Paolo Barro (81), Jona Magcalayo (87) and Christopher Popp (90).
Avena dropped a stroke on No. 2 but birdied the next two holes, only to bogey the par-5 No. 5 and No. 7 before birdying No. 9, seizing early control with a 36 as Viray, Sumulong, Alegre and Amata all made 37s.
But while his rivals faltered at the back in tough conditions, Avena played solid, birdying Nos. 12 and 13 while parring the rest of the hole to find himself on top of the heap.
At stake are trophies and prizes for the champion and the next three placers in Seniors Open and the top two players in each classification events. The top three finishers in Mid-Amateur will also receive trophies and prizes along with the top two in the Mid-Am age-group classes.