Rey Pagunsan forged an early solid partnership with reigning national junior champion Aidric Chan as they combined for a two-under 70 to grab a two-stroke lead over siblings Daniella and Lanz Uy, Tonton Asistio and Judson Eustaquio, and Art Arbole and Joel Yamyamin at the start of the Delimondo National Pro-Am at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Laurel, Batangas on Thursday.

Pagunsan and Chan launched their drive on No. 16 in the first of two shotgun starts and overcame a double bogey on the 18th on a wild drive with three pairs of back-to-back birdies against another double bogey to seize early control with the dreaded Splendido wind hardly felt in morning play.

golf pro am20190510 - Pagunsan-Chan wrests lead with 70
Rey Pagunsan PHOTO BY ROGER RAÑADA

Two pairs threatened to dominate the afternoon group with strong starts but the Enrico Gallardo-JR Bagtas and Michael Bibat-Louie Aguinaldo tandems blew a pair of early three-under cards with shaky finishes, enabling the Southwoods duo of Pagunsan and Chan to stay ahead of the 107-team field in the P2.7 million event sponsored by Delimondo.

Starting off on No. 1, Gallardo and Bagtas birdied three of the first 10 holes but double bogeyed the par-3 12th, bogeyed the next and dropped strokes on 16th and 17th for a 74.

Bibat and Aguinaldo made quite an impression with three birdies in their first five holes from No. 2. But they bogeyed the seventh and spent the rest of the day groping for shots while trying to salvage at least pars, to no avail. They bogeyed Nos. 11, 12 and 16 and dropped two strokes on the par-4 18th and limped with a 75 instead.

Those foldups allowed Pagunsan and Chan to regain the lead with the veteran campaigner anchoring their strong start on superb putting, including a 25-footer on No. 10 and another 10-foot putt on the next.

“I never putted this well but also drew solid support from my partner,” said Pagunsan of his 18-year-old teammate, who is coming into the event brimming with confidence following a victory in the National Junior Open at Sherwood recently.

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While Pagunsan flaunted his superb touch on the unpredictable surface, sinking all but one of their six birdies, Chan provided the shots that set up a number of birdie opportunities – on Nos. 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10. They, however, stumbled with one more double bogey on No. 6.

“We didn’t have problems on the greens. We just hope to sustain our form or get better in the next two days,” said Chan, who knocked in a 10-foot putt for birdie on No. 11.

The sister-brother tandem of Daniella and Lanz birdied their opening hole on No. 7 then added another feat on No. 10, but stumbled at the finish, ending up with back-to-back bogeys from No. 4.

They missed joining the Pagunsan-Chan pair at the helm and slipped to second at 72 with the tested tandem of Asistio and Eustaquio, who mixed two birdies against the same number of bogeys for a pair of 36s that nevertheless put the long-time buddies on track to reclaim the crown they won in 2017.

Arbole and Yamyamin birdied the 10th in one of the late flights to force a three-way at second with 70 in the event put up by ICTSI also held to showcase the skills and talent of the country’s leading amateurs and those gearing up for the pro ranks.

But a host of other teams stood just a shot, two or three behind, guaranteeing a spirited battle in the last 36 holes of the tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.

They include the pairs of Anthony Fernando-Nolan Enriquez, Joseph Suarez-Paqo Barro,Jelbert Gamolo-Coby Rolida, and Artemio Murakami-Takuya Kawamura, who all turned in 73s, and Ira Alido-Angelito Romero, Charles Hong-Masaichi Otake, Dino Villanueva-Sunshine Zhang, Cookie La’O-Mariel Tee, Marcos Pastor-Nicole Abelar, Marvi Monsalve-Laia Barro, and Richard Abaring-Juan Karloz Alba.

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