TARLAC – Keanu Jahns put in another superb round of five-under 67, wresting a one-stroke lead over erstwhile co-leader Charles Hong of Cebu and another shot ahead of Clyde Mondilla as they continued to show up the top guns halfway through the ICTSI Luisita Championship at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here Thursday.
Jahns, who matched Hong, Mondilla and Albin Engino’s 66 as the unfancied bets took charge in Wednesday’s opening round of the P2 million event, stumbled with a bogey on No. 2 which he birdied in the first round but rattled off eight birdies as he bucked tough pin placements at the tree-lined layout which took another beating from the men of the tour with 25 breaking par.
The three-year pro could’ve actually pulled away from the elite pack if not for his double-mishap on the par-4 15th. But what made his round impressive was that he gunned down those birdies in bunches – four straight each on both nines – with his 33-34 card giving him an 11-under 133 total and 36 holes away from nailing a breakthrough in a young pro career.
“I just stuck to what I did in the first round and my gameplan,” said Jahns, who hit eight birdies against a double-bogey Wednesday and gunned down eight again yesterday, including four straight from No. 4 and from No. 10. “Also, I’ve been hitting a lot of greens and making a lot of putts.”
But Hong, a two-time winner on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, is also in the hunt for another crown at 134 after the Cebuano ace turned what had been a mediocre start of 36 at the back with a fiery windup of 32, spiked by a three-birdie string from No. 2 and capped by two birdies in the last three holes that negated his unlikely bogey on the par-5 No. 6.
“The pins were placed in tough positions and that made it difficult to go for birdies,” said Hong, who flashed superb iron play that produced birdies inside six feet and more than made up for his wet bogey on No. 5 and a missed green miscue on the 17th.
Mondilla, chasing a second title after hitting paydirt at ICTSI Canlubang last year, matched Hong’s big frontside rebound in another flight, ramming in three straight birdies from No. 3 to turn in a 69 for a 135.
But if there’s one player looming large for the three pacesetters, it is Frankie Miñoza, who turned in a second straight four-under 68 to stay just three strokes off Jahns at 136. Unlike his 31-37 card Wednesday marred by two bogeys, the reticent Miñoza came out of the round unscathed, hinting at a promising final 36 holes for the very player who won here when Luisita last hosted a pro championship in the 1989 President’s Cup.
A slew of players also kept the leaders within sight to ensure a wide-open battle for the top P360,000 purse in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Jhonnel Ababa, who missed the cut at ICTSI Anvaya last week, firing a 67 to tie Rolando Marabe, who carded a 70, at 137 and Tony Lascuña making his move with his own version of a 67 for a 138.
Engino proved to be the only erstwhile leading player to crack under pressure as he wavered with a 73 after a 66 and tumbled own to joint eight with Jay Bayron, trying to atone for his final round foldup at Anvaya, who shot a 70, Elmer Salvador, who turned in a 69, and Japanese Toru Nakajima and Yuta Sudo, who rallied with 67 and 68, respectively.
Forty two players made the cut pegged at 147 with Cassius Casas, winner of two tournaments last year, barely making it with a 72 after a 75 together with ICTSI Orchard Championship winner Rufino Bayron, who fought back with a 71 after a 76.
Miguel Tabuena threatened in the early going with three birdies in the first seven holes at the back. But the ICTSI Splendido leg winner fumbled with a bogey on the 18th and had a one-bogey, one-birdie stint at the front for a second 70 and a 140, seven shots off Jahns. Other four-under par scorers were Anthony Fernando and Marvin Dumandan, who shot identical 69s, and Ferdie Aunzo, who made a 71.