AMERICAN Dodge Kemmer made it look easy when majority of the fancied bets struggled in tough conditions at Wack Wack East, firing a bogey-free six-under 66 to wrest a two-stroke lead over Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit at the start of the US$300,000 Solaire Open on Thursday.
Kemmer, an Asian Tour Q-School graduate, hit four birdies at the front then added two more at the challenging backside to preserve a 32-34 card and take the driver's seat in the chase for the top US$54,000 purse.
“I really like the course so it is always easier to go out and play a good round when you are happy and excited to play the course. I knew I had it in me and luckily it worked out for me,” said the 25-year-old Kemmer.
Ingkhapradit, meanwhile, gunned three birdies on both nines but stumbled with two bogeys at the back for a 68 while Mars Pucay took charge of the local challenge with a three-under 69 for joint third with Taiwan’s Lin Wen-tang.
Pucay, a veteran Asian Tour campaigner, sizzled at the back with three birdies, putting himself in early contention in the four-day championship sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino.
Five players carded two-under 70s, three more had 71s while 17 others matched par, including former three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que, last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Juvic Pagunsan, Arnold Villacencio, and Carl Santos-Ocampo.
Que bounced back from a 40 opener with a closing 32, spiked by three straight birdies from No. 11, while Pagunsan had an impressive start of back-to-back birdies from No. 11 but made a double-bogey on the par-3 16th.
Baek Seuk Hyun of Korea, who is currently ranked fifth on the Order of Merit, returned a 70 to share fifth place with Australia’s Matt Jager while Korean veteran Mo Joong Kyung was a further shot back at 71.
Kemmer, who regained his Asian Tour card at Qualifying School earlier this year after losing his playing rights last season, bounced back into form by reading golf and psychology books.
“I get down on myself pretty easily. I’m trying to stay more level emotionally and that’s easy to do when you are playing well. It will be interesting to see if I can handle my emotions when I hit some adversity this week,” said Kemmer.
Tony Lascuna, the reigning ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour No. 1, groped for form and ended up with a 73 to join the big group that includes compatriots Miguel Tabuena and Jerson Balasabas, while Frankie Minoza hobbled with a birdie-less 77.