Minoza rolls back time

Photograph by joey sanchez mendoza for the daily tribune @tribunephl_joey FRANKIE Minoza bends to place the ball on the 12th green at Marapara course during the first round of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic in Bacolod City on Wednesday.

BACOLOD CITY — Frankie Minoza, returning to the site of his last triumph seven years ago, opened with a two-under-par 68 to share the lead with unheralded Albin Engino at the start of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Classic presented by MORE Power here on Wednesday.

The 63-year-old legend kept his cool in the heat and wind around the short but tricky par-70 Marapara course to produce one of only four sub-par rounds of the day.

“I didn’t expect to go under. I just played it shot-by-shot and hole-by-hole. But it came out okay, so I’m happy,” Miñoza said.

“I’m just enjoying the game. Malakas ang hangin sa umpisa pa lang. Iba’t-iba ang kondisyon ng greens, may mabilis, may mabagal.”

Miñoza beat Miguel Tabuena in sudden death here for his last victory in the tour.

Engino is still looking for his first.

Using his familiarity with the course, Engino birdied two of the last four holes to join Miñoza on top.

His conservative approach carried him to even par through 14 holes behind two birdies against two bogeys before he caught fire coming home with birdies on 6 and 9.

“I played it safe and short throughout and made the most of my birdie chances,” Engino said. “Medyo maganda ang resulta, may mga na-save na pars, me long putt at may chip-in. Mahangin pero kaya naman at ang greens, mabilis kumpara sa dati.”

A shot off the pace were hot-finishing Ira Alido and Korean rookie pro Rho Hyun Ho.

Alido birdied the last two holes to secure the 69 while Rho rode on three birdies in the front nine.

“I played solid although I struggled at the back because of my tee-shots that’s not just going straight and I had a hard time getting used to playing on this kind of grass,” said Rho. “But I’ll try to hit more fairways and hope to make some birdies.”

A mix of aces and lesser lights stayed in early contention with Ferdie Aunzo, Jun Bernis, Reymon Jaraula, Korean Kim Min Seong, Tony Lascuña, Gerald Rosales, Nilo Salahog and Rupert Zaragosa all matching par 70s for joint fifth, and Jhonnel Ababa, Mars Pucay, Bonifacio Salahog and Dino Villanueva carding identical 71s.

The likes of Clyde Mondilla, Van der Valk, Michael Bibat, Elmer Salvador and top rookies Jonas Magcalayo, Gab Manotoc and Arevalo also need to hit more birdies to survive the Top 40 and ties cut in the P2.25 million tournament put up by ICTSI.

Mondilla hardly recovered from a bogey-triple-bogey-bogey start with three birdies against two more bogeys for a 74 and a share of 27th, while Van der Valk birdied the first hole but went on an uncharacteristic double-bogey-bogey-double-bogey, double-bogey-birdie run from 3 and wound up with a 75 for joint 34th.

Bibat, winner at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last year, skied to a 77 marred by a bogey-par-bogey-double-bogey windup for a share of 48th, and Salvador, another multi-titled campaigner, limped with a birdie-less 78 in his PGT return for joint 54th

Unlike Rho, Magcalayo and Manotoc wavered with 79s for a share of 59th while Arevalo, a former national stroke play champion, shot himself in the foot with an 84 for 66th place.

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