CEBU CITY – Davao’s Jhonnel Ababa and Cebuano ace Charles Hong routed Carl Santos-Ocampo and Edward Reyes, 5&3, as Team South hacked out a pair of 2 1/2-1 1/2 victories to seize a two-point lead, 5-3, in the first day of The Duel 3 – North vs South at the Cebu Country Club here Wednesday.
The Southerners actually missed gaining a bigger cushion as Tony Lascuña and Clyde Mondilla yielded the final hole, enabling Miguel Tabuena and Jun Rates to salvage an all-square match in the back-and-forth second-to-last pairing of the foursomes.
Jay Bayron, winner of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour’s kickoff leg at Splendido, and Elmer Saban set the tone for Team South’s afternoon charge with a 6&4 romp over Michael Bibat and Jun Bernis with Angelo Que and Mars Pucay saving the day for Team North with a 3&2 win over Marvin Dumandan and Mhark Fernando.
It was a sorry finish for Lascuña and Que, who had appeared headed for a sweep of their two matches after going 1-up after 17 holes. But Tabuena and Rates refused to give up and took 18th to force an all-square match.
“It’s a good cushion but not a safe lead,” said South skipper Jerome Delariarte.
Earlier, Lascuña and Mondilla fought back from one hole down with two birdies in the last three holes to snatch a 1-up win over Que and Gerald Rosales in the morning four-ball of the three-day event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The two teams slug it out again Thursday with skippers of both squads expected to tinker with respective team-ups to spring a surprise or two – first in the morning alternate shot format and then the afternoon best-ball.
The deciding singles – 12 matches – will be played Friday.
In morning play, South struck back in two matches behind its two tested campaigners and sustained its edge in the other to early control.
Lascuña and Mondilla fought back from one hole down with two birdies in the last three holes to snatch a 1-up win over Que and Gerald Rosales while Frankie Miñoza, in tandem with Hong, banged in a six-foot uphill birdie putt on the 18th to salvage an all-square match with Santos-Ocampo and James Ryan Lam as South took a 1 1/2-1/2 cushion in the best-ball format kicking off local version’s Ryder Cup.
Cassius Casas and Ababa took control of their duel with Randy Garalde and Benjie Magada early and kept their charge at the back to fashion out a 2&1 victory, giving the South squad the early lead in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Tabuena and Rates dominated Elmer Salvador and Jessie Balasabas and rolled to a 4&3 romp for Team North’s lone victory.
“We’re evenly matched but I believe we have a more experienced team,” said the 35-year-old Delariarte, a native of Dumangas, Iloilo.
After yielding two of the first six holes in the first match, South took one hole at the back before Mondilla buried a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to force an all-square match.
Lascuña, the reigning back-to-back ICTSl Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion and current leader, then capped South’s come-from-behind win with a birdie from five feet as Que and Rosales flubbed their respective birdie bids to the delight of the gallery and the crowd at the clubhouse.
Despite the setback, North skipper Artemio Murakami remains confident of his wards’ chances to defend the crown they won at Alabang Country Club last year, also in come-from-behind fashion that leveled The Duel series after Team South ruled the inaugural staging in 2012, also in Alabang,
“I’m still happy with the way my guys played today (yesterday). They showed that they’re fighters.”
Delariarte said they need to sustain their solid start to gain a big cushion heading to Friday’s deciding singles matches and recapture the crown in the event bankrolled by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“We just need to keep playing like this and hope for the best in the final day,” said Delariarte.
Other backers of the event are Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy, Mizuno, Callaway and Custom Clubmakers with Balls, ABS-CBN Sports+Action and Inquirer Golf as media partners.