CEBU, Philippines – Tony Lascuna and Elmer Salvador fired two late birdies to shoot a pair of two-under 69s and catch Australians Scott Barr and Unho Park at the helm at the start of the Aboitiz Invitational Presented by ICTSI at the Cebu Country Club here yesterday.
Lascuna, enjoying top form with two victories and a runner-up finish on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, rolled in a six-foot birdie putt on No. 8 on his way home while Salvador birdied No. 18 to move into a crowded leaderboard of the $65,000 event serving as the seventh leg of the Asian Development Tour.
Barr, a two-time US Open veteran from Canberra, nearly blew a solid 33 at the backside with a closing bogey-marred 36 while Park, out to break out of a long slump, eagled the par-5 16th to get into the mix of a talent-laden group chasing the top $11,375 purse in the event sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc.
The foursome posted a one-stroke lead over another four players, including rookie Clyde Mondilla, Charles Hong, Richard Sinfuego and Japanese Masaru Takahashi, who all carded 70s, on a hot but windy day.
“I’m satisfied with my start although I could’ve done better,” said Lascuna, who flubbed a couple of birdie chances inside four feet at the front, in Filipino.
Jay Bayron, the defending back-to-back champion here and No. 2 on the ADT OOM derby, also eagled the reachable No. 2 and made the turn at 33 but fumbled with three bogeys against a birdie in the last six holes and also settled for a 71.
Others who matched par were longshot Ebarra Quiachon and another Australia Michael Moore while ADT OOM leader Ryan Bulloch, also from Australia, birdied the first two holes but had a roller-coaster ride with four bogeys against one more birdie to lead the 72 scorers, who included Joenard Rates and Koreans Kim Gi-whan and Park Il-Hwan.
Jerson Balasabas actually held the lead with an eagle-spiked four-under card after 11 holes of brilliant shotmaking over a course stretched to a par-71 after No. 11 was adjusted to a par 5. But the former national team mainstay dropped those shots in the next four holes, marred by a double-bogey mishap on No. 13, and dropped two more strokes in the last three holes and tumbled down with a 73.
Mars Pucay, winner at ICTSI Iloilo Challenge two weeks ago, bogeyed two of the last three holes at the front and joined Balasabas at 73 in a tie with Ferdie Aunzo, Marvin Dumandan, Randy Garalde, Ruben Sasutil, Orlan Sumcad, Peter Villaber and pro-am winner Glenn Joyner, also of Australia.
But while Lascuna and Salvador lived up the hype, the other local aces sputtered in the opener of the four-day championship put up by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. with veteran Frankie Minoza in joint 36th with four-over 75 in a tie with Artemio Murakami, Aussies Luke Bleumink and Anthony Choat, Jhonnel Ababa and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Three-time Asian Tour leg winner Angelo Que skied to a 78 and found himself in danger of missing the cut along with two-leg winner Miguel Tabuena, who limped home with a 79, marred by a 43 start.
Other backers of the event, also serving as the ninth leg of the ICTSI PGT are Empire Golf, Titleist, Footjoy, Callaway, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Srixon, Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.