Clyde Mondilla blazed home with a birdie-par-eagle feat and shot a four-under 68, forcing a four-way tie for the lead with veteran Frankie Miñoza, rookie pro Ira Alido and American John Catlin at the start of the $60,000 ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship at the Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Wednesday.
Mondilla came out of a roller-coaster round in one of the late flights with a birdie on No. 15 from close range then bucked the wind and eagled the par-5 18th to finish with a 35-33 in a day of mixed fortunes with a number of pre-tournament favorites living up to the hype and a host of others reeling with over-par scores.
It was a big start for Mondilla, who came into the event trying to fight off an early season struggle that saw him miss the cut in the Solaire Philippine Open and the ICTSI Manila Masters. He wound up tied for 21st at Luisita last week.
Earlier, the old and new of Philippine golf sizzled at the front with a flurry of birdies with Miñoza flashing vintage form coming off a missed cut stint at Luisita last week, birdying three of the last six holes, including the last two inside feet.
“The greens are tricky and the wind was really strong,” said Miñoza, who continued to prove he still got what it takes to contend in big-time tournaments after outlasting Miguel Tabuena in a record five-hole playoff in Bacolod last year.
Alido, on the other hand, matched Miñoza’s birdie-birdie finish and closed out with a frontside 32 in a big start for a rookie pro who struggled to finish at 41st place in Tarlac.
“I played a near-perfect game. My putting and short game were simply good,” said Alido, the former national team mainstay who missed an eagle-putt bid from 30 feet off a solid hybrid second shot from 240 yars on the par-5 13th.
Catlin, who has figured prominently on the local tour with strong starts only to falter in the end, was at it again, birdying three of the first five holes at the front before finishing with three more against two bogeys for a 33-35 and a four-way tie for the lead in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.
“It’s a long tough course and it’s windy. I was lucky to score in only my second game at Orchard,” said Catlin, 26, referring to his pro-am stint Monday on what was once billed as Asia’s best-kept secret, which hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic in 1995. “Hopefully, I’ll sustain my form or play even better.”
The foursome stood one shot ahead of Paul Harris, also of the US, who carded a 69 while Tony Lascuña stayed right behind with a 70 in the company of Elmer Salvador, Nelson Huerva, Jerson Balasabas and American William Cannon.
Jay Bayron also birdied the last two holes at the front to save a 71 and tie Jelbert Gamolo, Zanieboy Gialon, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and American Micah Shin at 11th while three matches par 72s, incuding Erwin Arcillas, Japanese Joichiro Kawada and Ryoma Miki, American John Michael O’Toole, Thai Nitithorn Thippong and Orlan Sumcad.
While Catlin’s early surge was expected, Miñoza and Alido provided the early surprise in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. Wrapping up his backside with a birdie-bogey 36 to fall in the middle of the pack, Alido birdied Nos. 1 and 4 then closed out with two more while Miñoza rebounded from a bogey mishap on No. 13 with birdies on the next and No. 17 then birdied the two par-5s (Nos. 4 and 9) along with the par-4 No. 8.
Catlin, who led in the first round of the Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club but ended up at tied at 24th and shared the first day lead with Mathiam Keyser of South Africa at Luisita and wound up joint seventh.
A number of pre-tournament favorites, however, found the Player course too daunting and in danger of missing the cut with Keyser limping with an 82 marred by a 10 on the par-5 12; Keanu Jahns shooting himself in the foot with an 80 after a closing bogey-free 65 to snatch third place honors at Luisita; and 2014 champion Rufino Bayron turning in a 77.
The event, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., is backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.