Five share lead in wild ICTSI Riviera Classic opener

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Michael Bibat vaulted into a share of the lead on a late charge while Elmer Salvador wavered coming home as they turned in a pair of two-under 69s to force a five-way logjam at the start of the topsy-turvy, weather-delayed ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer course in Silang, Cavite on Wednesday.

Veteran Robert Pactolerin and unheralded Albin Engino turned what had been a pair so-so starts into a blazing windup and Malaysian Arie Irawan missed grabbing the solo lead with a bogey on the ninth as they joined Bibat and Salvador in the lead after a wild first round that saw the late starters fall and tumble at the demanding, ravine par-71 layout.

The fivesome took a one-stroke lead over India’s Shubhankar Sharma and Japanese Hashizume Mitsuhiko who both carded 70s, with half of the starting field of 116 still to complete play at presstime following a one-hour delay due to rain and threat of lightning in the afternoon.

Charles Hong eagled No. 10 and birdied the next in an auspicious start but the ICTSI Sherwood Hills champion made four bogeys at the front, needing to birdie the ninth to save an even-par 71 in a tie with Thai Sattaya Supupramai, England’s Peter Richardson, Aussie Darren Tan and young local aces Miguel Tabuena and Keanu Jahns.


“We were a bit lucky to have drawn the morning tee-off when conditions were still fair. But it’s really tough out there as the greens remain super fast,” said Bibat.

For a while, Salvador appeared headed for an explosive start in this $60,000 event of the Asian Development Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after blitzing the backside with four birdies for a 32. But the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion lost his rhythm at the front and reeled back with two bogeys.

After spending much of his campaign on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour trying to fight off cut-offs, Pactolerin now hopes to fight for the top $10,500 purse as the former Philippine Open champion and many-time Philippine Masters winner put himself in early contention with three birdies at the back, negating a bogey-mishap on No. 2.

“I was even surprised by my game. But that’s golf and it’s a good feeling to be among the early leaders,” said Pactolerin, who showed up flightmates Luke Bangerter of England (73) and Swede Malcolm Kokocinksi (73) with birdies on Nos. 11, 13 and 16.

Engino, way down in 32nd in the current PGT OOM ranking, actually produced the most explosive windup in the morning group, a five-under 31 that negated a three-over 38 start. He birdied the first two holes at the back to spark his comeback, hit another birdie on No. 14 before closing out with back-to-back feats in a flawless backside stint.

Like Salvador, the 24-year-old Irawan sizzled at the back with a 33 but stumbled with two bogeys against a birdie to settle for a 69 and a share of the lead in the event serving as the sixth leg of both the ADT and the ICTSI PGT.

Tony Lascuna, the early top local bet owing to his recent performances, struggled with a new driver and was lucky to salvage a one-over 72 and stay just three shots off the pace.

Other 72 scorers were Thais Pavit Tangkamolprasert, Poosit Supupramai, Suppakorn Uthaipat, and Pijit Petchkasem, American Brett Munson, Japan’s Tenka Terada and Tomokazu Yoshinaga and local bets Ferdie Aunzo and James Ryan Lam.

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