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CANLUBANG – Korean Kim In Jae drilled in a birdie on the par-5 ninth and turned in a two-under 70, wresting a one-stroke lead over fancied Rupert Zaragosa and compatriot Park Min Ung at the start of the 20th WWWExpress-DHL RVF Cup Amateur Golf Championship at Cangolf’s North course here Tuesday.

Kim actually recovered from a pair of early bogeys at the back where he teed off, stringing three straight birdies from No. 13 then added two more on Nos. 2 and 9, the first negating his missed green bogey on the eighth and the other shoving him to the top of the heap.

Park Min Ung hits a recovery shot on No. 6.
Park Min Ung hits a recovery shot on No. 6.

Zaragosa, who came from behind to rule last year’s staging of the annual event sponsored by WWWExpress and DHL, and Park, a former Philippine junior champion, virtually matched shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in the featured flight although the latter had to rebound from a disastrous double-bogey mishap on No. 10 with birdies on Nos. 11 and 16 to draw level with the local ace.

Justin Quiban, who led Manila Southwoods’ title romp in last year’s Fil-Am Invitational, also fought back from a two-over 38 at the back with a birdie on No. 3 to salvage a 73 for fourth while GJ Katigbak took solo fifth with a 75.

Ira Alido and Aniceto Mandanas carded identical 76s for joint sixth with Korean Ji Hyok Chung and Cebu bet Wei Wei Gao of Alta Vista Golf and Country Club.

Ranged against Raymart Tolentino and Francis Sabio, Kim appeared headed for a struggling round after dropping strokes on Nos. 11 and 12. But he quickly recovered those shots with birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 then added another on the par-3 No. 15.

He stumbled with another bogey on the 16th but birdied the tough par-4 18th to preserve a one-under card before birdying No. 2 and scrambling for a couple of pars and holing out with a bogey and birdie to seize the solo lead.

Zaragoza, enjoying top form after winning a member-club tournament last week, hit one birdie to tie Park, who had a two-birdie, one-bogey stint, after nine holes. Park fell two shots off Zaragosa with that double-bogey on No. 10 but struck back with two birdies to save a 36 while the latter settled for two bogeys against the same number of birdies to remain tied at second.

Fil-Aussie Peter Hargreaves actually led the field with an impressive 34 on a birdie-birdie windup at the front but lost his touch, focus and all at the back with a 43 marred by a closing double-bogey for a 77 in the event held as part of the PLDT Group’s National Amateur Golf Tour.

He was joined in later by JP de Claro, Korean Kim Joo Hyung, Carlo Villaroman, Luigi Wong and Tolentino while Cebu’s Gen Nagai stood too far behind with a 78 in a tie with Luis Castro and Ko Myeung Hun of Korea.

Meanwhile, the chase of the ladies crown starts today with Felicia Medalla of Wack Wack, Harmie Constantino of Villamor and Aguinaldo’s Bianca Pagdanganan tipped to lead the charge.

Others expected to contend are Valley Golf’s Kayla Nocum and Ashia Nocum, Aguinaldo’s Bianca Pagdanganan and Cebu bets Lois Kaye Go and Wei Fang Gao, Kristine Torralba and Annika Cedo along with Koreans Hwang Min Jeong, Seo Yon Kwon and Choi Yeon Hwa and Fil-Am Carlia Canto.

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