Carl Santos-Ocampo and Mars Pucay turned in a pair of bogey-free 68s in ideal condition to open a one-stroke lead over Angelo Que and five others as Juvic Pagunsan hobbled with a two-over 74 in the first round of the P2.5 ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship at the Orchard’s Palmer course in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Wednesday.
Santos-Ocampo, out to improve on his 24th place finish at ICTSI Calatagan two weeks ago, sizzled in the privacy of a windless early morning flight and gunned down three birdies before slowing down at the back with only a birdie to show for a flawless 33-35 card.
Pucay, seeking an end a long title drought on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, matched that solid start with his own version of a 68 that featured two birdies in each side of the par-72 layout, which virtually lay defenseless in the absence of the wind.
“I had a very efficient round. Solid ball-striking and good short game gave me a stress-free card,” said Santos-Ocampo, who also had a fine start of 62 at ICTSI John Hay only to falter in the next three rounds and struggled to finish in joint 17th.
Pucay also showed a big improvement after finishing joint 22nd in Baguio and joint third at Calatagan with his four-birdie exploits on Wednesday although he rued his muffed birdie chances from close range that would’ve given him the solo lead in this 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
“Overall, my game was okay. There were some near misses for birdies but I still believed I made a good run,” Pucay said.
At least 15 others also made a run on a hot, humid day with Angelo Que shooting a 69 for joint third with Jay Bayron, Mhark Fernando, Christopher delos Santos, Richard Sinfuego and Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga in the event backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp with Balls, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Inquirer Golf as media partners.
Lascuna also put himself in early contention for a back-to-back title romp as he carded a two-under 70 for a share of ninth with Edward Reyes and Korean Micah Shin.
Que, priming up for the United States Open qualifier next week, outgunned Pagunsan in their highly anticipated match-up, hitting four birdies against a bogey for that 69,
Pagunsan kept Que and the leaders in sight with a 35 at the front but the Japan PGA Tour campaigner and former Asian Tour Order of Merit champion lost his rhythm and fumbled with four bogeys in the first seven holes at the back, including a three-putt mishap on No.
16. He needed to birdie the par-4 17th to salvage a 74.
Miguel Tabuena, who ran away with the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic crown in March but blew his ICTSI John Hay title bid with a playoff loss to Bayron last month, rallied with two birdies at the back to save a 71 to join Joey Huerva, Clyde Mondilla, Anthony Fernando, Michael Bibat and another Korean, Kim Chang Hoi at 12th place.
Five others, including Ferdie Aunzo, Jomar Pepito, Glenn de Leon, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Japanese Toru Nakajima, matched par 72s, and five more stood a shot farther at 71, including Gerald Rosales, Dino Villanueva, Jun Bernis, Rufino Bayron and James Ryan Lam.