MORONG, Bataan – Unheralded Nilo Salahog and tour leg winner Zanieboy Gialon stole the thunder from the big guns by firing identical three-under 69s to share the first round lead in the Philippine Golf Tour ICTSI Anvaya Cove Golf Invitational here Wednesday.
Salahog, nephew of 1989 Philippine Open champion and World Cup campaigner Robert Pactolerin, sizzled with nines of 34-35 capped by four birdies inside eight feet while Gialon, a former national player who ruled the ICTSI Royal Northwoods leg last year, birdied the first two holes en route to a 35-34 round at the tough 7,030-yard layout.
The duo stood a stroke ahead of Jay Bayron, a former ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion who actually had a four-under card after 14 holes but bogeyed the next and dropped two strokes on No. 17 to fall to solo third at 70.
Seven golfers carted identical 71s, including Pactolerin (35-36); Tony Lascuña (36-35); Orlan Sumcad (37-34); Miguel Tabuena (35-36); Toru Nakahima of Japan (35-36), Korean Jun Hyeok Park (36-35) and Micah Shin (36-35) of the US.
Pactolerin gunned down four birdies, including three at the front, against three bogeys while Lascuña, the reigning three-time ICTSI Order of Merit champion, gunned down five birdies against one bogey but fumbled with a double bogey on the par 4 No. 11.
“Medyo hindi malakas ang hangin kaya maganda ang score,” said the 53-year-old Pactolerin.
For a while, Salahog, who missed the cut in two of the first four legs of this year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI, appeared headed for a personal-best start as solo leader of a star-studded field until Gialon, who played in seventh flight with Rey Pagunsan, Thomas Kim and John Rey Pactolerin, came in with the same score.
“My game clicked and everything’s in place,” said Salahog, who matched his best output at Marapara two years ago. He was actually at four-under heading to the par 4, 390-yard No. 18 but dumped his approach shot into the greenside bunker and failed to save par from eight feet.
“I could’ve grabbed the solo lead but I failed to control my approach shot and missed the green,” rued Salahog, who cashed in on an early 6:42 a.m. start with Artemio Murakmi, Elmer Saban and Luis Espinosa.
Seven others turned in under-par rounds at the up-and-down layout hosting a tournament of his magnitude for the first time as the rest of the field, including the eminent Frankie Minoza, struggled on the par 72, 7,030 yards layout carved out in the Bataan mountains near the boundary of former US naval base in Subic.
Mars Pucay, Ian Mathay ang and Elmer Salvador matched par 72s while Cassisus Casas, Michael Bibat, Jessie Balaabas, and Guido Van Der Valk turned in 73s.
Minoza failed to get going with a 74, the same output put in by Rufino Bayron, Dino Villanueva, Angelo Que, Yuto Sudo, and Korean Jun Min Seok.
Salahog practically hit most of the green and rescued a par from the bunker on No. 4 to highlight his impressive round.