• Saso pulls away; Kim, Monsalve take over

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    Yuka Saso slowed down with a 72 but padded her lead to five as her rivals faltered with over-par scores even as Kim Joo Hyung of Korea and local ace Ryan Monsalve surged ahead in the boys’ side midway through the Philippine Junior Amateur Open Golf Championships (Strokeplay) at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Wednesday.

    After an eagle-spiked 68 in the first round, Saso settled for a three-birdie, three-bogey stint in the heat to pool a 36-hole aggregate of 140 and move five strokes clear of Junia Gabasa and closer to scoring a title repeat in the 72-hole championship serving as part of the PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour and sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation.

    Gabasa, who held her ground and shot a 71 Tuesday, bogeyed two of the first four holes and went on to card a 75, staying at second but falling farther back by five with a 146 in the event backed by Cignal and Metro Pacific Investment and organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

    Former national champion Harmie Constantino virtually bowed out with a 78 for a 151, 11 shots off the pace, while Kristine Torralba and Korean Yang Ju Young stood at 154 and 155 after an 80 and 77, respectively.

    That should make Saso’s task easier with the reigning World Junior Girls gold medalist expected to step up her title-retention drive and nail the first berth in the national team bound for the SEA Games in Malaysia this August.

    But while the girls’ crown looked a cinch for Saso, the chase for the boys’ plum remained as tight as ever with defending champion Kim and Monsalve matching 71s for 145s, two shots ahead of Carlo Gatmaytan, who pooled a 147 after a 74.

    Opening day leader Carl Corpus failed to sustain his 71 start with a double bogey-marred backside 40, finishing with a 79 and tumbling to joint sixth with Kristoffer Arevalo, who fought back with a 71, at 150, now five strokes behind.

    Weiwei Gao and Perry Bucay moved up to joint fourth at 148 after a 72 and 73, respectively, while Pter Po and Paolo Wong carded 76 and 79, respectively, for a share of eighth at 155.

    Kim, who beat practically the same field last year, birdied two of the last three holes at the front to string nines of 35-36 while Monsalve birdied Nos. 6 and 8 to turn in his version of 34-37 as they took charge with one-over totals.

    Gatmaytan birdied the par-3 No. 6 to complete a 36-38 card and stay within striking distance of the joint leaders while Bucay blew a tournament-best 32 at the back with a closing 41 to fall into a tie with Gao, who made a 37-35.

    Meanwhile, Rupert Zaragosa continued to stamp his class in the Special Division (18-over), shooting a 71 for a 146 and a five-shot lead over Dan Cruz, who struggled with a 74 for a 151 with GJ Katigbak falling way off at third with a 162 after an 80. Lizbeth Alcantara likewise kept the lead in the girls’ side with an 86 for a 169, three shots ahead of Annika Guangko, who assembled a 172 after an 82, with Korean Baek Yeun Jea made an 85 for a 178.

    Francis Lanuza carded a 79 to force a tie with Miguel Ilas, who fumbled with an 81, at 162 in the 13-Under section with David Guangko at far third with 167 after an 83. Grace Quintanilla all but wrapped up the girls’ 13-U crown with a 165 after an 84, 24 shots ahead of Daniella Gatti, who made a 98 for a 189.

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