AMATEUR Mafy Singson made a huge 10-stroke turnaround to jump from the middle of the pack to the top of the heap with a superb three-under 69 on Wednesday in the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Valley Golf Challenge in Antipolo City.
Reymon Jaraula, on the other hand, shouldered himself past erstwhile joint leaders Ira Alido and Angelo Que with a rare two-eagle feat for a brilliant 66 but had to endure a two hour-long wait before formally claiming a two-stroke lead over Alido midway through the men’s tournament.
Lightning forced the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. to suspend play at noon, minutes after Jaraula turned in a near-flawless 32-34 card marked by eagles on Nos. 7 and 17, and moments after Alido and Que took different routes following a spirited battle of shotmaking, putting and poise to stay at the helm for the second straight day.
Singson drove past Chihiro Ikeda and Korean amateur Min Yeong Kim to find herself 18 holes closer to her second pro crown.
Not a bit fazed by a seven-over 79 showing in the first round Tuesday, Singson exploded early in a big backside 33 start then picked herself up from a double-bogey on No. 3 with a birdie on the next then gained another stroke on the par-5 seventh for the second straight day following a two-hour delay due to lightning.
In a flash, the many-time national team mainstay found herself towing the field with a four-over 148 as Ikeda and Kim, who had kept a two-shot lead when play was stopped with three holes to play, made two bogeys each at the finish, holing out with 75 and 73, respectively, and dropping to a three-way tie instead with Daniella Uy at 149.
Just a stroke off Ikeda after 18 holes, Uy took charge with a two-birdie, two-bogey card after 11 holes but made two more bogeys in the next five and wound up with a 74 that however kept her within a stroke off the new leader with 18 holes left in the P750,000 championship.
“My driving wasn’t so good (in the first round). In this course, you really need to drive well to be in the fairway all the time. I drove a lot better today (yesterday) but still not good although I was able to save more (pars) and made more putts,” said Singson, who upstaged the top pros to snatch the LPGT Splendido Taal crown last year.
But so-so finishes had marred her stints and ruined her bid for a second pro crown in this year’s edition of the ICTSI-backed circuit but her blistering second round assault in difficult conditions, coupled with Ikeda and Kim’s late-hole meltdowns, put her back in the conversation.
“I’m excited. But I’m hoping for the best tomorrow (today). I hope to play steady and well,” added the ICTSI-backed shotmaker.
Ikeda fell off the leaderboard with an error-riddled start in hot conditions but as her rivals also tumbled one after the other while facing severe tests at Valley South in dark skies early in the afternoon, the reigning Ladies Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion birdied the 11th to regain control.
She bogeyed No. 14 for the second straight time but came up with a chip-in birdie from 40 yards on the next, only to come up cold at resumption of play.
“I had no problem with the delay. In fact, I was able to relax since I was already tired. But the course is really tough,” said Ikeda.
Rookie pro Mikha Fortuna, meanwhile, also moved into strong contention with a 71 for a 150, just a couple of shots off Singson at fifth, while Martina Miñoza also remained in chase despite a 76 for a 151 and three-peat seeking Harmie Constantino and amateur Lois Kaye Go matched 152s after a 76 and 74, respectively, to guarantee a wide-open finish.
While Alido struck back from bogeys on Nos. 2 and 4 with birdies in the next two holes to get into 3-under in the day and seven-under overall, Que, who matched Alido’s first round 68 on a last-hole birdie for a one-stroke lead over Jaraula and three others, fell with a thud with bogeys on Nos. 4 and 6 before play was stopped.
But seven flights ahead, Jaraula was already on his way out of the Valley Golf Club, head held high, together with his confidence, after assembling a nine-under 135 largely behind a sterling round he laced with three birdies that buried a lone mishap on No. 18 and despite dealing with his putting stroke early on.
“I struggled with my putting early on and missed some putts. Although I recovered on some holes, I also failed to sink a couple of putts from short range,” said Jaraula in Filipino.
Alido did knock a third straight birdie at the resumption of play but gave up the stroke on the par-3 No. 8 and finished with a 69 for a 137 although the next two pursuers lay five strokes off the new leader heading to the last 36 holes of the P2 million championship.
“It was a long wait and I lost my momentum from that point but it was still a good round,” said Alido, who turned in a solid four-under card Tuesday. “I made a lot of birdies today (yesterday) but also made too many mistakes.”
Those included bogeys at the front that halted a four-birdie, one-bogey charge from No. 10 although he racked up three straight birdies from No. 5 to re-ignited another run before dropping a stroke on the eighth.
“I wasn’t really worried about it,” said Alido of his miscues. “I knew that I could make up for it and make a couple of birdies down the stretch.”
Korean Chon Koo Kang missed closing in on Jaraula with two bogeys in the last four holes as he ended up with a 71 for joint third at 140 with Tony Lascuna, who put in a second straight 70, while Que, who had an even-par card with three holes to play, holed out with a bogey on the ninth and slipped farther back to joint fifth at 141 after a 73.
Joining him at three-under overall are Zanieboy Gialon, who matched par 72, and Korean Min Seong Kim, who fired a 69, and Japanese Atsushi Ueda, who blew a three-under card with a double-bogey on No. 15 and wrapped up his round with three straight pars for a 71.
Clyde Mondilla also made his move right before the suspension, overcoming bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6 with an eagle on the next on his way to a 69 after a 73 for a 142 in a tie with Philippine Masters champion Jhonnel Ababa, who carded a second 71, and Japanese Gen Nagai, who parred the last three holes at the back to complete a 70.
Lloyd Go, meanwhile, rebounded with a 69 to join six others at 12th at 143, including Fidel Concepcion, Keanu Jahns and Rico Depilo, who matched 70s, Korean Hyun Ho Rho and Dutch Guido van der Valk, who carded identical 71s, and Gabriel Manotoc, who birdied the last hole to save a 73 after a 70.
Justin Quiban, who matched Jaraula, Kang and Gialon’s first round 69, actually grabbed the overall lead before Alido, Que and the rest had teed off as he birdied Nos. 11 and 12 to go five-under overall.
But he yielded it just as quickly with a double-bogey on No. 15 and bogeys in the next two. He battled back with birdies on Nos. 3 and 7 against a bogey on the sixth but dropped strokes in the last two for a 75 and a 144 for joint 19th with Albin Engino, who limped with a 74.
Teeing off at Valley South’s backnine, Jaraula, who finished fourth at Caliraya Springs for his best effort in the first five legs of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour, snapped a run of five pars with a birdie from 6 feet on No. 15 then slashed a 3-wood second shot from 246 yards to within 16 feet and made the eagle putt on the par-5 17th.
Though the Del Monte ace hit a flawed tee-shot on No. 18 and missed an eight-footer for par, he quickly recovered with back-to-back birdies from No. 1 from close range then broke another streak of four pars by reaching No. 7, also a par-5, in two and knocked down the putt from 12 feet.
“Focus lang sa laro at work on my putting,” said Jaraula, now 36 holes away from nailing a second pro win after beating Lascuna on the second playoff hole to snare his first PGT crown at Pueblo de Oro in 2019.
But Alido is likewise hell-bent on scoring a second win after topping the Bacolod kickoff leg, staying within sight of Jaraula despite a late mishap.
Forty two players made the cut at 150, including Carlos Packing (74), Korean Hwan Lee (75), Francis Morilla (76), Gerald Rosales (78) and Dino Villanueva (79), but Marvin Dumandan (75), Rolando Marabe Jr. (75), Sean Ramos (76), Elee Bisera (77) and Ferdie Aunzo (78) missed it by one.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes