MANILA, Philippines -- Rufino Bayron outgunned fancied Juvic Pagunsan in a frontside duel and shot a five-under 67 but found a charging Korean amateur Hwang Kang Yul as co-leader at the start of the P1-million ICTSI Calatagan Challenge in Batangas on Wednesday.
Bayron held his ground against the returning Pagunsan at the back then hit three birdies against a bogey to complete a 34-33 card in the morning session.
But Hwang charged home in one of the last afternoon flights with a bogey-free 67, capped by a birdie on the 18th to force a tie with Bayron, two strokes ahead of Joenard Rates, who pressed his bid with three birdies in a six-hole stretch linking both nines for a 69.
Pagunsan, making his first appearance on the local tour since joining the Japan PGA Tour last April, tried to impose his will with an eagle-spiked 34 stint at the back.
But the reigning Asian Tour and the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour No. 1 wavered at the front, bogeying the last two holes for a 72.
He slipped five shots off the pace in joint ninth although Pagunsan is expected to bounce back on Thursday and put himself in contention for the top P200,000 purse in this 13th leg of the 15-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Like Pagunsan, Bayron also had a shaky finish, bogeying the tough par-3 No. 8 although the former amateur hotshot had built enough cushion with birdies on Nos. 2, 3 and 7.
The 19-year-old Hwang made quite an impression by birdying two of his four holes then birdied the difficult par-3 eighth to go three-under at the turn. He played pressure-free throughout the day, hitting another birdie on No. 14 before closing out with his fifth to share the day’s scoring honors.
The unfancied Rates bucked a bogey on No. 12 with four birdies, including back-to-back from No. 17 then rammed in another on the par-5 No. 4 to string nines of 35-34.
Jhonnel Ababa stayed well within striking distance with a two-under 70 in a tie with Arnold Villacencio and Marvin Dumandan at fourth in the 54-hole tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Charles Hong birdied No. 3 then recovered from a three-straight bogey mishap from No. 7 with a three-birdie binge from No. 12 to salvage a 71 for joint fifth with the power-hitting Orlan Sumcad, who missed closing in on Bayron with two bogeys on the last two holes at the back.
Joining Pagunsan at 72 are Rolando Marabe, Richard Sinfuego, Mhark Fernando and Ferdie Aunzo, while Elmer Salvador groped for form all day and carded a 73 to fall into joint 14th with Christopher delos Santos, Paul Echavez, Dante Becierra, Rene Menor and amateur Joseph Suarez.
The other backers of the tournament are Empire Golf, Titleist, Footjoy, Callaway, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Srixon, Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp with Balls, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Inquirer Golf as media partners.