JOENARD Rates sizzled at the finish to upstage the Philippine Golf Tour’s big guns with an eagle-spiked 69, taking a one-stroke lead in the first round of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Challenge at the Aoki course in Gen. Trias, Cavite.
Rates birdied three of the last five holes at the front to jump from the middle of the pack and into the lead in sun, rain and wind. He highlighted the round with a pitch-in eagle from 150 yards on the par-5 11th and capped the performance with a tap-in birdie on the ninth.
“I worked on my stamina since we’re playing sans caddies and under erratic weather conditions. But the rain is part of the game and I really needed to work hard on every hole,” said the 5-foot-3 Rates, looking for his third career win after nipping Finland’s Janne Kaske in a playoff to snare the PGT Asia crown at Summit Point in 2018.
Michael Bibat also birdied his closing hole for a 70 and Rufino Bayron birdied three holes in his closing nine to save a 71 for third spot.
“Given the playing conditions, including wind and rain and pin placements, I’m happy with my game,” said the soft-spoken Bibat, out to snap out of a long title spell in the ICTSI-sponsored circuit after scoring a breakthrough at Palos Verdes in 2013.
Just a stroke off the pace, the former Asian Games bronze medalist said he won’t be going on the attack mode this early, stressing: “I’ll just take it one shot at a time, try to hit the fairways and greens and make the most of my birdie chances.”
As the fancied bets, including Riviera leg winners Tony Lascuña and Ira Alido, and former Philippine Open champions Miguel Tabuena, Angelo Que and Clyde Mondilla, floundered in challenging conditions, Paul Echavez, Zanieboy Gialon, Nilo Salahog and Manila-based American Lexus Keoninh all matched par 72s to take the early challengers' role at joint fourth.
Tabuena barely overcame a double-bogey start with a roller-coaster finish of three birdies against two bogeys in the last seven holes at the back, but his 73 still put him within striking distance at joint eighth with Marvin Dumandan.
Alido, who marked his first pro victory with a whopping nine-shot romp at Riviera Championship, slipped with a bogey-double-bogey finish at the back for joint 10th at 74 with Anthony Fernando, Gerald Rosales and Reymon Jaraula.
Amateur Jolo Magcalayo, meanwhile, bogeyed two of the last three holes at the front and fell to the group of Justin Quiban and Richard Sinfuego at 75.
Que birdied the 17th that hardly checked a skid marred by a double bogey and three bogeys in a nine-hole stretch from No. 8.
The power-hitting Southwoods pro wound up with a 76 and dropped to the company of Frankie Miñoza, Rupert Zaragosa, Albin Engino, Erwin Madrileño, Korea’s Park Jun Sung, Dutchman Guido Van der Valk and Jobim Carlos.
But Lascuña and Mondilla will have a lot of catching up to do to make the 40-plus ties cut as the former, who ran away with the first Riviera title, turned in his worst card in years – a birdie-less 80 marred by a quadruple bogey on No. 8. He was in joint 35th.
Mondilla, who ruled the PGT Asia event at Pradera Verde in early 2020, hit two birdies but stumbled with nine bogeys, a double bogey and also an eight on No. 8 for an 85 and way down at 47th.