TRECE MARTIRES, Cavite – Randy Garalde put on a dazzling show of shot making and superb recoveries to shoot an eagle-spiked eight-under 64 and wrest a three-stroke lead over Jesse Balasabas and two others at the start of the P3 million ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club here Wednesday.
Garalde, who had two runner-up feats in a 10-year career marred by so-so finishes, buried a 7-iron approach shot from 170 yards on the par-4 No. 9 for eagle, highlighting his solid 31-33 card in sweltering heat and putting him way ahead of a stellar field chasing a record P650,000 top purse.
“I’m thankful to shoot a bogey-free round today. I did have bad drives on No. 12 that nearly went out-of-bounds and on No. 16 but was able to recover and save pars,” said Garalde, whose fiery start sparked hopes of a successful campaign after finishing second at Pueblo de Oro two years ago and at Midlands last year.
Teeing off the backside, Balasabas, who churned out a pair of joint 12th finishes in the first two legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., failed to get going with a one-over 37 but birdied No. 1 before closing out his front-side stint with a stirring five-birdie binge for a 30 and a 67.
Shin, another unfancied bet in the fourth leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., turned in a flawless 33 at the back then birdied the last two holes at the front to join Balasabas at second as the fancied bets struggled in tough, windy conditions late in the afternoon.
Edward Reyes made it a three-way tie for second as he sustained a frontside 33 with a 34 on two birdies in the last four holes while Jay Bayron, winner of the kickoff leg at ICTSI Splendido, blew a solid 31 start at the back with a double-bogey and bogey at the front for a 70.
He was joined at fifth by Clyde Mondilla, Charles Hong and Art Arbole, who all had 35-35 cards, and Paul Echavez, who turned in a 34-36, while Benjie Magada stood at solo 10th with a one-under 71.
Canadian Rick Gibson and Korean Kim Chang Hoi matched par 72 for joint 11th with Zanie Boy Gialon, Robert Pactolerin, Jan Tambogon and Arnold Villacencio while Elmer Salvador, the reigning back-to-back ADT Invitational champion who skipped the Indonesia Masters to vie in one of the four P3 million tournaments lined up this year, groped for a 73 and dropped to joint 17th with Keanu Jahns, Artemio Murakami, Chris Mamaril, American Joshua Leppo, Miguel Ochoa, Mars Pucay, Cookie La’O, Michael Bibat, Christopher delos Santos and Marvin Dumandan, who closed out with a 64 to finish second to Tony Lascuña at ICTSI Eagle Ridge two weeks ago.
Frankie Miñoza, a two-leg winner last year who also won the 2013 The Country Club Invitational, made a five-over start in the first four holes at the back but birdied three of the last seven holes to salvage a 73 while Jun Rates, winner at ICTSI John Hay, hobbled with a 74 for joint 29th with Rolando Marabe, Rene Menor, Hanson So Jr., Jomar Pepito and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Taking advantage of benign condition in an early morning start, Garalde, 35, birdied Nos. 4 and 5 from close range, rolled in another birdie from six feet on No. 8 before closing out the front side with that spectacular eagle.
He sustained his form by birdying No. 10, hit another birdie on the par-5 No. 15 before holing out with another birdie for that 64.
“No definite game plan for the next three days but to play my game and enjoy it although I need to keep my drives straight and polish my putting stroke,” said Garalde, who turned pro in 2004 but had to stop playing for a while due to school and work before resuming his golf career when ICTSI staged the revival of the pro circuit in late 2008.
The other backers of the event are Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy and media partners Balls TV and ABS-CBN.