STA. ROSA, Laguna. — Team South scored a pair of lopsided victories and charged back in two matches to take a 4-2 lead over North in the opening four-ball competition of The Duel–North vs. South VI at Sta. Elena Golf Club here Wednesday.
Multi-titled Tony Lascuña combined superbly with first-timer Nilo Salahog as they dominated Michael Bibat and Jun Bernis from start to finish to fashion out a 6 and 5 romp while Rufino Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa posted a similar convincing 4and 3 victory over James Lam and Fidel Concepcion to give the three-time champions an early cushion in the three-day tournament featuring the top players on the Order of Merit ranking after the 10th Philippine Golf Tour season.
The Northerners, who upstaged their star-studded counterparts from the Visayas and Mindanao in the foursomes and four-ball on their way to a three-point win at John Hay last year and cutting the ICTSI-sponsored series’ lead to 2-3, fought back to draw level at two matches but Team South won the last two pairings to take charge in better-ball play.
“We dominated them,” said Lascuña, who sank four birdies inside eight feet on Nos. 5, 6, 9 and 12 in ideal conditions in a solid team-up with Salahog, No. 11 in the Order of Merit who delivered four birdies on Nos. 3, 4, 8 and 10 from 10 feet.
Down two matches, North struck back behind Justin Quiban and Eric Gallardo, who ripped Zanieboy Gialon and Jerson Balasabas 4 and 2, and Keanu Jahns and Gerald Rosales, who crushed Jay Bayron and Reymon Jaraula 3and 2. But the Southerners of coach Charles Hong regained control as Elmer Salvador and Reymon Jaraula recovered from a shaky start to edge Ira Alido and Mars Pucay 2 and 1 and Arnold Villacencio and Rene Menor won the last hole to complete a 2-up reversal over Jobim Carlos and Joenard Rates.
“Nothing really went wrong. They just played so good,” said North coach Cookie La’O, who will be switching players for new combinations in a bid to stir up play in the tough alternate shot format event of the country’s version of the Ryder Cup organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. “We changed up some teams for tomorrow’s foursomes and hopefully we’ll be able to mount a comeback.”
Action is expected to heat up as play shifts to foursomes (alternate shot) Thursday with both coaches hoping to draw results from new combinations in an attempt to gain momentum and confidence heading to the deciding 12 singles matches Friday.