Tony Lascuna came out of a rain delay in shaky form, fumbling with a bogey on the 18th and enabling Jerson Balasabas and Zanieboy Gialon to gain a share of the lead at 66 at the start of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at the Aoki course in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Tuesday.
The veteran shotmaker actually looked headed to capping an explosive start with a fiery windup after heavy downpour halted play for over an hour, birdying the par-3 17th from close range to go seven-under. But the three-time Order of Merit winner missed the green on the last hole and failed to get up-and-down from eight feet, settling for a six-under card.
“I misread my putt on No. 18 but overall I had a good game, good putting,” said Lascuña, eyeing a follow-up to his Luisita Championship romp last April. “But we’re closely bunched together so it’s going to be exciting in the next three days.”
Balasabas, still in search of a breakthrough win on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, anchored his 66 on a scorching finish at the front that saw him birdie four of the last five, including three straight from No. 5 to spike a bogey-free round and find himself in a spot ahead of the elite roster chasing the top P360,000 purse in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“Everything worked perfectly well for me, especially my driving,” said Balasabas, who also cited his gym and cardio workouts as keys to his solid start in the P2 million tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Gialon, who seemed to thrive in rainy days, winning a couple of tournaments in such condition, also turned in his own version of a 34-32, a flawless card highlighted by back-to-back birdies from No. 16 as the troika took a one-stroke lead over Marvin Dumandan.
The long-hitting Dumandan outplayed fancied rookie pro Jobim Carlos and former Asian Development Tour leg champion Rufino Bayron, blasting four birdies in a five-hole stretch from No. 12 then closed out with another birdie on No. 9 to shoot a 67.
Clyde Mondilla, chasing a rare three-straight romp after winning the ICTSI Manila Masters at Eastridge and Calatagan Invitational the last three weeks, didn’t stray too far from the leaders although he needed to unleash a strong finishing kick at the front to put himself in early contention.
Even with four birdies against a double-bogey and a bogey with six holes left, the 23-year-old Mondilla birdied the par-3 No. 5, added another on the next before gunning down an eagle on the par-5 sixth.
With a 68, the rising Del Monte star joined Jun Bernis, who sizzled at the front with a 32, fifth while Orlan Sumcad, Artemio Murakami and John Kier Abdon carded identical 69s and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Japanese Ryoma Miki and local aces Mhark Fernando, Charles Hong, Joenard Rates and Kris Etter all had 70s to stay in the hunt in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Carlos, who lost to Mondilla in a playoff at Eastridge, failed to get going coming off a two-week break, churning out a mediocre two-birdie, one-bogey effort to fall five strokes off the joint leaders, including Lascuna, the last player to score three straight wins in 2014.
Other 71 scorers were Dante Becierra, Jhonnel, Erwin Arcillas, Mars Pucay, Justin Quiban and Allan Remata while Anthony Fernando, Rene Menor, Reymon Jaraula, Japanese Yuta Sudo and Korean Hwang Kang Youl matched par 72s.