GUIDO Van der Valk unleashed a strong finishing kick to fire a three-under 69 and grab a one-stroke lead over Jhonnel Ababa and five others at the start of the ICTSI Calatagan Golf Challenge at the Calatagan Golf Club in Batangas yesterday.
Stuck in the middle of the 81-player pack with an even par card with a bogey on No. 3 coming home, Van der Valk came away with back-to-back birdies from No. 4 then drilled in another on the par-3 eighth to rally with a 34 for that 69 in a big Day 1 finish and a big start for the Manila-based Dutchman still in search for his breakthrough win on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Meanwhile, Clyde Mondilla’s bid for a third straight victory suffered a snag with three bogeys in the first four holes at the back. Though he fought back with three birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No. 15, the Southwoods and Phl Masters champion fumbled with another bogey on the sixth and ended up with a one-over 73.
Van der Valk’s windup actually stood out in a day when majority struggled at the finish at the frontside of the tight, rolling layout.
That included Ababa, who looked headed to backing up his pre-tournament claim of a successful campaign on a course he calls home when he rattled off four birdies and paced the elite field after 12 holes.
But he bogeyed the par-5 No. 4 on three putts then dropped another stroke on the closing par-4 ninth on a flubbed par putt from a club’s length.
He settled for a 70 and dropped into the big group of two-under par scorers, who included Rufino Bayron, who also blew a four-under card with bogeys on Nos. 5 and 8, and Zanieboy Gialon, who bucked a double-bogey mishap on No. 11 with five birdies in the next seven holes, including four straight from No. 13.
Gialon birdied No. 4 to move on top with a four-under but bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8 while Gerald Rosales missed joining Van der Valk at the helm with a bogey on No. 9.
Ferdie Aunzo, who started at the front, bogeyed the 18th and missed grabbing a share of lead while Jay Bayron shot a bogey-free 70 to stay in the early hunt in the P2.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Tony Lascuña settled for a one-under 71 to lead another big group of contenders, including Mhark Fernando, Anthony Fernando, Reymon Jaraula, James Ryan Lam, Rolando Marabe Jr., Edward Reyes, Orlan Sumcad and Arnold Villacencio along with Americans Lexus Keoninh and Nicolas Paez and Korean amateur Kim Joo Hyung.
American Paul Harris and Japanese Yuta Sudo also matched pars for joint 21st with Erwin Arcilla, Rico Depilo, Jelbert Gamolo and Efren Robles Jr. while 12 others joined Mondilla at 27th, including Richard Abaring, Jun Bernis, Paul Echavez, Albin Engino, Nelson Huerva, Cookie La’O, Francis Morilla, Robert Pactolerin, Elmer Salvador, Joeleo Torrecampo, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski and Korean Park Jun Sung.
Van der Valk, who has had a number of title cracks in the circuit but couldn’t pull it off with late round foldups, hopes to build some momentum from his strong finish yesterday.
He actually started with a birdie on No. 12 but dropped a shot on the 16th before mixing another birdie on No. 18 with a bogey on the third. But he blazed home with three birdies and sneaked past a host of local contenders in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.