Murcia, Negros Occidental—Unheralded Reymon Jaraula stood out from a star-studded group that teed off late, spiking his lead-sharing five-under 65 with an eagle as he joined Michael Bibat, Rufino Bayron and Spain’s Marcos Pastor at the helm at the start of the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge here yesterday.
Jaraula ripped the Bacolod Golf Club’s backside with four straight birdies from No. 12 then bounced back from a bogey on No. 17 with an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 as he turned in a 33-32 card to find himself a bewildered co-leader for only the second time in a young career, one ahead of another unfancied bet in Richard Sinfuego.
But the rising Del Monte star, who tied for 18th in last week’s Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational won by Dutch Guido Van der Valk in wire-to-wire fashion, will need three more solid rounds to realize a dream finish with a mix of talents likewise launching their respective title drives at the par-70 layout in impressive fashions.
“My driving was quite okay but I struggled a bit with my putting,” said the soft-spoken Jaraula, who, however, missed the fairway on No. 17 and muffed a couple of birdie putts at the front.
Bibat, seeking to end a long title spell, scorched the frontside with five straight birdies and bucked a two-birdie, two-bogey game at the back to put himself in contention after finishing joint second at CFdC in Danao City.
“I played well, stayed focused and didn’t mind the scores of the rest,” said Bibat, who rued his being impatient at the back that led to bogeys on Nos. 10 and 17. “But I had a good game overall and got some good breaks.”
In contrast, Bayron leaned on a fiery backside of five birdies in the last eight holes to card a 35-30 in a big rebound to a floundering finish of 76 that dropped him to joint 16th in Cebu last week.
“I struggled with my driving and putting in the first nine holes, missed the fairways and greens on Nos. 6 and 7. But I hit my stride at the back and made the putts,” said Bayron, who turned what had been a so-so game into a flourishing finish with four straight birdies from No. 14.
Pastor launched his bid at the back and eagled the par-5 15th then birdied Nos. 18, 1 and 7 to turn in a bogey-free 33-32 round on a day where the lesser lights upstaged the fancied players in the P2.5 million championship put up by ICTSI at the short but tricky layout that yielded a number of eagles for the long hitters but punished those with wayward shots.
The Philippine Golf Tour Qualifying School (Foreign) topnotcher last February could’ve actually grabbed solo control if not for his flubbed birdie chances from close range.
“My driving and irons are very good but had some problems with my putter and missed at least five birdie chances from club-length distance,” said Pastor, who broke par just once at the par-71 Club Filipino de Cebu layout and tied for 22nd.
“I don’t know what’s in store tomorrow (today) but I hope to be able to settle down (with my putting).”
Sinfuego, a former amateur hotshot but who didn’t have as much success in the pros, also gunned down an eagle and hit five birdies against three bogeys as he took solo fifth at 66 while Rico Depilo and Arnold Villacencio carded identical 67s to stay in the early hunt.
Reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla also shot an eagle and three birdies against three bogeys as he marked his return to the PGT with a 68 for joint eighth, just three strokes off the joint leaders in the event serving as the second of the four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Juvic Pagunsan, who took a break from the Japan PGA Tour, his base the last few years, to re-join and prime himself up for next week’s title defense in Negros Occidental, rebounded from a bogey mishap on the par-3 No. 3 with four birdies but settled for joint eight with Mondilla and three others with a last-hole bogey.
Other two-under par scorers were Dino Villanueva, Ira Alido and Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia.
As the unfancied bets took the first day spotlight, the pre-tournament favorites struggled with defending champion Justin Quiban, who beat Jay Bayron by five here last year, fumbling with a 72, the same output put in by Jay Bayron, Albin Engino, Richnell Albano, Ramil Bisera, Arnel Enema, Francis Morilla, Rico Pepito, Mars Pucay, Orlan Sumcad, Korean Kim Young Hyun and Mateo Gomez of Colombia.
Others in the early hunt are Jhonnel Ababa, Aussies David Gleeson and Jack Sullivan, who turned in identical 69s, Keanu Jahns, Jerson Balasabas and England’s George Twyman, who all had 70s, and Tony Lascuña, James Ryan Lam, Elmer Salvador and Van der Valk, who shot similar 71s in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
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