Stroke Play tilt: Korean, Go set pace with 68s

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    KOREAN Wook Gwon Min banked on a superb backside start while Lois Kaye Go sizzled with a frontside finish as they shot identical three-under 68s to take control in the first round of the National Stroke Play Championship yesterday at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite.

    Thriving in the privacy of an early morning tee-off, Wook birdied two of the last three then bucked a bogey on the second hole with birdies on Nos. 6 and 9 to gain a two-stroke lead over in-form Ryan Monsalve in men’s play of the 72-hole championship kicking off the 2020 PLDT Group Amateur National Golf Tour.

    Monsalve, riding the momentum of a runaway triumph in the National Doubles with Lanz Uy two weeks ago, also tamed the tough backside of the par-71 layout with a 34 but missed forcing a tie with the Korean with a double bogey mishap on No. 7 for a 70.

    The rest, including defending champion Gen Nagai of Japan and national team mainstays Carl Corpus and Aidric Chan, struggled as the wind whipped up at noon with Weiwei Gao fumbling with a 73 for third although Sean Ramos fought back from a frontside 39 with a closing 35 to save a 74 for joint fourth with Japanese Kyosuke Yoshida.

    Like Monsalve, Go kept her good run of form going coming off a SEA Games stint, anchoring her strong start on superb putting, her birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 netting her nines of 33-35 that featured three other birdies against two bogeys at the back. She stood five shots ahead of Samantha Martirez and two others in the women’s side she ruled by humbling the likes of LPGA Tour-bound and SEA Games gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan and world No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand last year.

    “I feel really contented with my game and I thought I played pretty solid,” said Go, a member of the Asian Games and SEAG gold medal winning teams. “I made a couple of mistakes but recovered well with birdies. The key to my game was putting. I made putts from 15 to 20 feet and was able to save par when I needed to.”

    Martirez matched the Cebuana ace’s 35 start but dropped three strokes in the first three holes at the front, including a double-bogey on No. 2, finishing with a 38 for a 73 in a tie with Abby Arevalo, teammate of Pagdanganan and Go in the SEAG squad, who also stumbled with a closing 38, and young Rianne Malixi, who rallied with a 35.

    In men’s play, Nagai groped with his short game and never recovered from a three-bogey, one double bogey card at the front, limping with a 77 to fall behind by nine; while Corpus hobbled with a 75 for joint sixth with Leandro Bagtas and Korean Kim Tae Soo, winner of the MVPSF Amateur diadem here last November.

    Chan, spearhead of the bronze medal SEAG squad that included Ramos, Corpus and absentee Luis Castro, stayed in the early mix with a frontside 36. But last year’s Junior World titlist got undone by a quadruple bogey on the par-4 11th, ending up in joint 12th with Nagai, Miguel Ilas, Santino Laurel and Korea Hur Jun Ha.

    Ryuya Yamashita and fellow Japanese Atsushi Ueda and Peter Tyler Po shot identical 76s for joint ninth in the event sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation and backed by Cignal, Metro Pacific Investments and Summit Ridge as official hotel.

    In women’s side, Junia Gabasa, another talent from Cebu, carded a 74 for joint fifth with Laurea Duque while Bernice Ilas shot a 75 and Samantha Dizon and Korean Bang Hee Yeon shared eighth place with 77s with the rest of the 27-player field way behind with high scores in the event organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.