Golf: Asistio shares lead with 69; RP trails Thailand by 3

August 18, 2009 9:39 am 

THAILAND, Aug. 18 -– Tonton Asistio blitzed a three-under card at the backside for an eagle-spiked 69 as he shared the lead with Malaysian Nicholas Fung in the individual competition while steering the Philippines to joint second with a two-under 214, three shots behind fancied Thailand at the start of the Putra Cup at the Santiburi Country Club in Chiangrai here Tuesday.

Asistio, 19, struck a superb 4-iron shot from 220 yards to within six feet for eagle on No. 13 and barely missed another eagle putt from the edge of the green on the par-5 18th for that 33, capping a big rally from the big-hitting spearhead of the ICTSI golf squad and the RP team that looked headed for a mediocre start in the Southeast Asia Amateur Golf Team Championship.

Reigning national champion Mhark Fernando, holding his own against Singapore’s Choo Tze-Huang and Thailand Pawin Ingkhapradit, flubbed a downhill birdie putt from six-feet on the 18th and settled for an even par 72 while Rufino Bayron survived poor form under ideal condition and was lucky to salvage a 73 after missing all but two greens.

With a 214 aggregate, the Philippines stood three shots off Thailand, which assembled a five-under 211 on a pair of 70s from Sonthirati Porameth and veteran Khrongpa Thanyakorn and a 71 from Papituk Apichat, making up for a pair of lackluster performances by the ladies team in the Santi Cup and the juniors squad in the Lion City Cup.

With Fung matching Asistio’s 69, Malaysia also made a fine start of 214 as Gavin Green turned in a 74 and Ismail Mohammad added a 74.

Defending champion Singapore faltered with a 218 with Joshua Shou firing a 71 and Choo and Zhiqun Lam carding 73 and 74, respectively.

Asistio and Fung posted a one-stroke lead over Porameth and Thanyakorn in the individual race and two ahead of Green and Shou.

Peter Villaber succumbed to pressure while playing for the first time for the national team but his three-over par 75, which didn’t count in the four-to-play, three-to-count format event among eight teams, spoke well of the character of the Davaoeno shotmaker who dislodged a couple of veterans to make it to this year’s squad.

“We needed that big windup from Asistio and a steady game from Fernando to have a decent start as Bayron groped for form all day,” said national team coach Bong Lopez, hard-pressed to motivate and steer the team to a first-ever championship since 1996 when Tony Lascuna took the individual crown and powered the team to victory in Myanmar.

“It’s still too early to tell our chances. With the wind not much of a factor, it will really boil down to shotmaking and putting,” he added.

Asistio showed both in the last nine holes, birdying No. 10 before outdriving and outhitting rivals Jonathan Leong, who didn’t count with a 75, the reigning Singapore national champion, Malaysian Gavin Green and Porameth to bury that eagle-putt on No. 13.

Although he dropped a shot on the 15th, Asistio made up for this with another solid 3-wood shot on the 18th.

“The front side was really tough and scoring an even par is good enough. I was just lucky to find my rhythm at the back,” said Asistio, who also birdied No. 5 to negate a missed-green mishap on the par-3 seventh.

Fernando, playing out of Calatagan, made three birdies against one bogey on the 10th and a double bogey on No. 7 where he needed three shots to reach the green.

He knocked down a solid wedge shot on the 18th but misread the downhill putt from six feet for birdie.

But while the men’s team stayed in the hunt, the Philippines lagged behind in two other fronts, including the inaugural Santi Cup for ladies despite boasting of two of the best-credentialed players as Dottie Ardina and Chihiro Ikeda struggled with a pair of two-over 74s and Louise Manalo made a 76 despite three birdies in the last 11 holes.

Anya Tanpinco also had a 76 but failed to count. With a 224 haul, the RP ladies dropped to third, nine shots behind a hot-starting Thailand (215) and one behind Malaysia (223) while the RP juniors squad of Luis Miguel Tabuena, Edward Reyes, Jobim Carlos and Chepe Dulay limped home with a 234 and fell by 14 strokes off Hong Kong.

The 14-year-old Tabuena, runner-up in the Junior World Masters in San Diego recently, emerged the top scorer with a four-over 76 as Reyes and Carlos came in with 79s, the same output put in by Dulay, which failed to count.

Hong Kong paced the Lion City Cup with 220, five shots ahead of Thailand (225), followed by Singapore (226), Indonesia (230) and Malaysia (232).

The RP ladies struggled with their short game, failing to set up decent par-putt chances from deep rough which punishes wayward approach shots.

Ardina, winner of the Pacific Northwest crown in the Oregon recently, missed a couple of six footers for par, including on No. 16 which lipped out while Ikeda, coming off a title romp in the Optimist International in Florida two weeks ago, shot just one birdie but rescued three pars in five times that she went out of regulation.

“My driving is okay but I had a poor short game. I can’t come up with a good shot from the rough,” said the 15-year-old Ardina. (PNA) vcs/LOR/pr

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