Reed-thin Micah Shin shouldered himself past a slew of local aces with an explosive windup at the front in the rain, turning in a five-under par 65 and grabbing a two-stroke lead over veteran Jay Bayron at the start of the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge at the Bacolod Golf and Country Club in Binitin in Bacolod on Wednesday.
The young American appeared headed for another mediocre stint after blowing a two-under card after seven holes at the back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 17. But after heeding the advice of his caddie, he settled down and birdied No. 1 then closed out with stirring four-birdie binge in the last five holes to find himself the bewildered leader in the early going of the P1.5 million ninth leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Not bad for a 19-year-old Davao-based player who missed the cut and placed way down at 40th in his last two tournaments at Eagle Ridge and Forest Hills.
“I got mad at myself after I bogeyed the last two holes at the back. But my caddie told me to just relax and just play my game since there were still nine holes left,” said Shin, referring to Davao pro Elmer Saban, who opted to take the bag for his young ward.
For a while, Bayron took the spotlight with a 67, also anchoring his bid on a sizzling windup at the back with four birdies against a bogey, only to yield the upperhand to a charging Shin in one of the last flights in the opener of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Orlan Sumcad failed to cash in on his local knowledge of the tight par-70 layout, hitting three birdies but fumbling with two bogeys for a 35-34 card, dropping to joint third with Johvanie Abaño, Zanieboy Gialon, Mars Pucay, Joenard Rates and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Fancied Tony Lascuña put himself in early contention with birdies on Nos. 13 and 16 but the back-to-back winner at Eagle Ridge and Forest Hills flubbed a couple of birdie putts at the front then hit an errant shot on the par-3 eighth and needed five shots to hole out. He settled for an even 70 to drop to joint ninth with Reymon Jaraula, Keanu Jahns, Jet Mathay, Marvin Dumandan and Cassius Casas.
“Just had a bad tee shot on No. 8. But overall, I had a good round. Despite five down, I like my chances,” said Lascuña, the current Order of Merit lead with three victories, including a win at Luisita last April.
Relatively short to the pros’ standards, the 6,050-yard course still proved to be a tough challenge for the elite field with just eight players breaking par and six matching 70s as majority opted to attack it off the mound and paid dearly for it.
Dumandan missed a couple of fairways and fumbled with four bogeys against two birdies after 14 holes and needed to birdie Nos. 15 and 17 to salvage an even par round.
Casas, who boosted his confidence after leading his team made up of Tosik Chea, Grace Chea and Cholo Tupas to the pro-am victory Tuesday, found the going tough at the back and stumbled with two bogeys and needed to sink a hole-in-one off a solid 6-iron shot on the 186-yard No. 8 to save a 70 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Paul Echavez, Alvin Engino, Richard Abaring, local favorite Robert Pactolerin, Anthony Fernando, Jerson Balasabas, Korean Park Jun Song, Rolando Marabe Jr., Raymond Gonzales, James Ryan Lam and Benjie Magada all carded 71s while eight others, including Mhark Fernando and Jhonnel Ababa, turned in identical 72s.