Tambalque seizes lead in JPGT Bacolod after last-hole birdie

Tambalque seizes lead in JPGT Bacolod after last-hole birdie
Patrick Tambalque

BACOLOD – Patrick Tambalque surged ahead in the fiercely competitive boys’ 16-18 category with a decisive last-hole birdie on the ninth, securing a one-stroke lead over John Rey Oro and Simon Wahing with a 75 at the start of the ICTSI JPGT Bacolod Visayas Series in Binitin, Murcia here Monday.

Tambalque faced formidable competition, including club favorite Oro and Bukidnon-based Wahing, relying on his strong start and finish to overcome what he described as poor decision-making on a day when the leaderboard frequently shifted in a day that started in bright sunshine and ended in a drizzle.

“I had a good start with a chip-in birdie on No. 10,” said Tambalque, the 16-year-old student from Learning Links Academy in Silang, Cavite. He caught up with Oro at six-over following a bogey-double-bogey exchange on No. 8 but seized the solo lead with a clutch birdie from four feet on the last hole.

“My decision-making wasn’t great, but tomorrow (Tuesday) I know what I need to do to improve my game,” added Tambalque, a category winner in last year’s JPGT national finals who tied for fourth in the Luzon Series' first leg at Splendido Taal last month.

Breathing down his neck are Oro and Wahing, who both carded 76s, while John Paul Oro posted a 77. Arsenio Acuña IV, who led earlier, stumbled with a triple-bogey on No. 6, ending up with a 79 for joint fifth with Keith Pagalan, setting the tone for a spirited battle over the next three rounds of the 72-hole tournament.

In contrast, Dominique Evonne Gotiong marked her Junior PGT debut impressively, posting an 81 to seize a six-shot lead over Iloilo leg winner Rhiena Sinfuego, who scored an 87. Breanna Rojas took third place with a 98 in the girls’ premier division.

“I got a bit nervous after a run of bogeys at the back but I was able to recover,” said the 16-year-old hopeful from Cebu making her first start in the nationwide series put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Expecting a charge from Sinfuego and other contenders, including one-armed golfer Necky Tortosa, who made a 108, Gotiong vowed to do better on Tuesday but stressed the need to minimize mistakes.

“My driving was good but I had several careless misses. I plan to do better tomorrow,” said Gotiong, who also struggled with her short game.

In the 13-15 division, Nyito Tiongko and Tiffany Bernardino took charge with 76 and 87, respectively. Race Manhit set the pace in the boys’ 10-12 side with an 81, while Cailey Gonzales and Zuri Bagaloyos shared the lead in the girls’ 10-12 class with 82s.

Trailing by three going into the 18th, Gonzales parred the par-3 hole, gaining a three-shot swing as Bagaloyos holed out with a triple-bogey 6 in the flight ahead, setting the stage for a spirited battle for top honors in the final 18 holes.

Kelsey Bernardino made it a three-way fight as she trailed the duo by just two strokes with an 84.

“My game plan is to trust myself and focus on the positives,” said Gonzales, who defeated Bagaloyos and Bernardino by 17 strokes in Iloilo.

Bagaloyos, whose opening round was marred by two out-of-bounds (OB) shots, said, “I’ll make sure all my shots go straight.”

Eliana Mendoza and Kvan Alburo, meanwhile, aimed to replicate their dominant performances in the 8-9 age category in Iloilo. Mendoza carded an 85, leading Leanne Reosura by 34 strokes, while Alburo shot an 83, securing a 17-shot advantage over James Rolida.

Reosura struggled with a 119, and Ana Marie Aguilar posted a 121 on the girls' side, while Rolida scored a 100, and Tobias Tiongco stumbled with a 103 in the boys’ class as they headed into the final round of the 36-hole competition, the first of two Bacolod tournaments, concluding the three-leg Visayas series, which kicked off in Iloilo.

Manhit moved 18 holes away from finally nailing an elusive victory after two runner-up finishes in the three-leg Luzon series, posting a commanding 11-stroke lead over Iloilo leg titlist Kurt Flores, who scored a 92. Isaac Locsin stood at a distant third with a 107. “I’ll make sure my mental game is ready for tomorrow and I hope I’ll get the win,” said Manhit, 11, from Ateneo.

In the 13-15 class, Bernardino also vowed to improve in the second round to stave off the anticipated fightback of Stacy Chiu and Iloilo stage winner Alexie Gabi, who trailed by just three shots with identical 90s.

“I’ll try to keep my score better and play safer. It’s also important to put my drives on the fairways,” said Bernardino, 13, from Saint Pedro Poveda College.

Tiongko looked poised to dominate the boys’ 13-15 competition after seizing a five-stroke lead over Ty Ritchie Go and Inno Flores, winner in Iloilo last week, despite a day-long struggle with his wedges. “I chunked my wedges a lot today but I hope to do better tomorrow,” said the Cebuano shotmaker, who was philosophical about his first-round charge. “I went down on the ground and listened to the grass, touched it. And it said I will have a good game.”

He did.

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