ANTIPOLO – Tony Lascuña gunned down an eagle on No. 17 and took a three-shot lead over Jhonnel Ababa with a five-under 67, putting in motion his bid for the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge crown halfway through the P2 million event at the Valley Golf Club here Thursday.
Feeling recharged after struggling with near-exhaustion in the last nine holes of Wednesday’s opening round, Lascuña put on a fiery performance touched off by a birdie-birdie binge and spiked by an eagle on the par -5 No. 17 to check in with the day’s best round of 33-34.
The late eagle, off a superb 3-wood second shot from 250 yards that rolled past 12 feet off the cup, also made up for his botched eagle-bid on No. 5 where he three putted and settled for a par and a poor decision off the mound on No. 16.
“Binawi ko lang yung three-putts ko sa No. 5 na pang-eagle sana at yung maling desisyon ko sa No. 16,” said Lascuna, referring to his lone bogey on the 16th where he opted for a 5-wood tee-shot instead of a 3-iron that sailed into the water hazard.
Still, his 67 and an eight-under-par 136 aggregate put him way ahead of the field with Ababa carding a 70 for a 139 and erstwhile leader Cassius Casas bogeying the ninth for a 72 and 140 with two rounds left in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Casas, who showed up the field with an impressive 68 Wednesday, eagled the par-5 11th to hold off a fast charging Lascuña, who birdied the first two holes at the front. But Casas bogeyed two of the next seven holes and hardly recovered with a one-birdie, one-bogey stint at the front for that 72.
“Sayang, maganda sana ang umpisa sa backnine. Pero two rounds pa naman, malaki pa ang chance na makabawi,” said Casas, seeking a second win this year after ruling The Country Club Invitational last February.
Eric Mina bounced back from a 73 with a fighting 68 to move up nine places to fourth at three-under 141 in a tie with Elmer Saban who shot a 70. Carl Santos-Ocampo posted a second straight 71 to be at sixth with a two-under 142.
Korean-American Micah Shin, runner-up at ICTSI Sherwood two weeks ago, carded a 73, Robert Pactolerin and Albin Engino shot identical 70s for 143s while Elmer Salvador, tied with Lascuña and Ababa at second at the start of the day, limped home with a 75 marred by a triple-bogey on par-4 No. 13 to drop to 146.
Long-hitting Orlan Sumcad fired four straight birdies from No. 14 and wound up with a 69 to join Rufino Bayron (73) and Ferdie Aunzo (70) at 10th at 144.
Cebuano Charles Hong, winner at Sherwood, bounced back from a woeful opening 75 with a 70 for a 145 in a tie with Arnold Villacencio (71), Mars Pucay (72), Clyde Mondilla (72) and Paul Echavez (75) while Miguel Tabuena, who hobbled with a 78 in the first round, shot a 71 for a 149 and safely made the cut at 152.
The overnight rest seemed to have worked well for Lascuña, who is coming off a grueling Asian Tour campaign where he finished joint 24th at the Malaysian Open, shared 22nd place at the Indonesian Open then turned in a joint 11th place effort in last week’s The Championship in Singapore.
“I feel a lot better now but it will be tough in the last two rounds, especially against Jhonnel and Cassius,” said Lascuna, bracing for a shootout with his fellow ace Davaoeño shotmakers.
Organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., the four-day championship is backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers, which also offers P50,000 for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.