Arnold Villacencio hit a pitch-in eagle on the par-4 No. 15, spiking a solid five-under 67 for a two-stroke lead over Anthony Fernando at the start of the Philippine Golf Tour Qualifying School (local) at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Batangas yesterday.
Villacencio, a former PGT leg winner at Summit Point who ended up No. 41 in the last PGT Order of Merit, birdied all but one of the four par-5s then knocked down an eagle on the 15th to complete a 34-33 card in the 72-hole elims held alongside with the foreign qualifiers for the 11th season of the country’s premier circuit.
Meanwhile, the PGT Asia will hold its own Q-School on April 22-25 at Luisita Golf and Country Club with the fourth season of the region’s emerging circuit set to unfold on April 28-May 1 with the ICTSI Luisita Championship, also in Tarlac.
Fernando, a former national titlist, birdied two of the first two holes at the back then fought back from a two-bogey, one-birdie card at the front with a pitch-in eagle on No. 7 to save a 69 while Raymund Gonzales and Francis Morilla shot a pair of 70s for joint third.
Arnel Enema missed grabbing a share of second with two bogeys in the last four holes, finishing with a 71 while Nico Evangelista, Erwin Madrileño, Bonifacio Salahog, Sean Talmadge and Dino Villanueva all matched par 72s.
Three, meanwhile, shared the lead in the Q-School for foreign players with Japanese Gen Nagai stumbling at the finish to settle for 70 and drop into a tie with American CJ Lee and Romano Saincic of South Africa.
Nagai, winner of the national amateur championship last year, struggled after an impressive five-birdie splurge after 12 holes, bogeying three of the last six for a 32-38 that enabled Lee and Saincic to gain a piece of the lead.
Unlike Nagai, Lee banked on a strong windup, birdying three of the last eight while Saincic blew hot and cold, opening with an eagle on the par-5 No. 10 and birdying two of the next three.
But he dropped four straight strokes from No. 15 before gunning down two birdies at the front for a 34-36.
The troika seized a two-shot lead over Aussie William Bruyeres, who mixed two birdies against the same number of bogeys for a 72 while Korean Hwang Myung Chal and Venezuelan Rafael Parra matched par 72s.
In the local elims, only the top 40 plus ties after 36 holes will advance to the final two rounds with the leading 30 qualifiers to be included in Category 6 and the 31st to 50th to settle for Category 9 status in the 2020 PGT starting rosters.
The top 12 after 72 holes in the foreign qualifiers, meanwhile, will gain Category 7 slots with the rest to be included in Category 9 in the 2020 PGT starting fields.