Gialon sizzles at the finish, leads by 3

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Zanieboy Gialon barely misses a chip-in birdie on No. 8. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Zanieboy Gialon scorched the backside and shot a 66, moving 18 holes away from snapping a long title spell with a three-stroke lead over Tony Lascuña in the third round of the ICTSI Calatagan Golf Challenge at the Calatagan Golf Club in Batangas on Friday.

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Gialon outgunned Jhonnel Ababa and Dutchman Guido Van der Valk with a near-flawless stint in the last 9 holes, capped by three birdies in the last four for a 31 for an 11-under 205 total that put diminutive shotmaker three shots clear of an equally charging Lascuña, who also turned in a six-under card four flights ahead to assume the challenger’s role at 208.

Rufino Bayron also rallied at the back with a 33 for a 67 and took solo third at 209 while brother Jay carded a 71 and lay six shots farther back at 211 heading to the final 18 holes of the P2.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI.

Ababa, who shared the halfway lead with Gialon, flubbed a couple of birdie putts in the early going and struggled the rest of the way, hitting two birdies but fumbling with three bogeys for a 73. He tumbled to joint fifth with Clyde Mondilla and American Nicolas Paez.

Mondilla, seeking a third straight championship in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., struck back from the middle of the surviving pack to within a stroke off Gialon with three birdies in the first five holes. But the Southwoods and Philippine Masters winner lost his putting touch and settled for a one-birdie, one-bogey stint at the back for a 69 while Paez birdied two of the first four holes and eagled No. 13 but made two bogeys for a 70.

Jun Bernis turned in a second straight 70 but stood too far behind at 213 while Jerson Balasabas and Gerald Rosales tied for ninth at 214 with a 71 and 73, respectively.

With Ababa struggling, Gialon took control with birdies on Nos. 4 and 7. He stumbled with a bogey on the next but went on a birdie spree at the turn to find himself on top of the heap and closer to nailing a follow-up to his last victory in the rain-shortened Royal Northwoods Championship in 2014.

“It’s been a long while. I just hope I’ll be blessed with a win again tomorrow (today),” said Gialon, who birdied three of the first four holes at the back and rebounded from a bogey mishap on No. 14 with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 15 then added a pair of five-footers on Nos. 16 and 18.

With Lascuña and Rufino Bayron as his final round rivals, Gialon expects the pressure to mount early on but vowed to stay focused and seize the moment for a crack at the top P450,000 purse.

“I didn’t expect to lead, more so by 3. But I’m hitting it pretty well and hope to sustain it,” he added.

Lascuña missed moving within two with a bogey on No. 17 but the reigning Order of Merit winner remained confident of pulling off a come-from-behind victory for a follow-up to his Manila Masters feat at Eastridge last April.

“Three strokes is nothing at Calatagan. But it’s going to be tough. I have to minimize my mistakes and make the most of the birdie opportunities,” said Lascuña, who rattled off three straight birdies to kick off his third round charge. He bogeyed the fourth, parred the next six then strung up five straight birdies from No. 11 to pull within two.

Like Gialon, Rufino Bayron is also out to end a three-year title drought in the circuit with the former amateur hotshot putting himself in contention with three straight birdies from No. 12 and added another on the 17th to close within four of the leader.

The rest could be too far behind to pose a threat but Jay Bayron, Ababa, Paez and Mondilla still vowed to mount an early charge and hoped the leaders falter to gain a crack at the crown in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.

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