JUN Rates sneaked through a pack of big guns with a big game belying his small frame, shooting an eight-under 60 to grab a one-stroke lead over erstwhile leader Frankie Miñoza and titleholder Jay Bayron halfway through the P2 million ICTSI Camp John Hay Championship on Thursday in Baguio City.
Rates, 19th in last year’s Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit, banked on what he described as two “lucky” shots from under the trees and hit birdies in the last three holes for an 11-under 125 total.
“I was just lucky to shoot a 60. I hit a tree off the tee on No. 6 (par-3) but the ball landed onto the green and I made the putt. I also drove into the trees on No. 17 (par-5) and punched out, then hit a rescue shot from 220 yards to within 12 feet for another birdie. May halong swerte din talaga,” said the 5-3 Rates, who muffed an eagle putt from 10 feet on No. 1 but went to fire eight more birdies against a missed-green bogey on No. 5.
“I’m happy with my game, making the putts to complement my short game. In this short but tight course, it’s a matter of putting your ball in the right position,” added Rates, out to improve his career-best finish of third, also at John Hay in 2012.
Miñoza, who started the day with a two-stroke lead, came up with a 65 for a 126, which was matched by Bayron after a second-straight 63.
Miñoza eagled the par-5 No. 1 but had a couple of errant shots and a number of flubbed birdie putts.
“I had some mishit and missed birdie putts,” said Miñoza, who birdied No. 8, bogeyed the par-3 No. 11 for the second straight day and birdied the 17th again. “I will just try to strike back.”
Bayron stressed the need to putt better to stay in the hunt for a second straight title.
“I had another good round and bucked some tough pin placements with crucial putts. It will all boil down to putting in the end,” said Bayron, seeking a second straight victory after topping the season opener at Splendido.
Four behind Miñoza at the start of the day, Rates fell farther back despite a birdie on the opening hole but hit back-to-back birdies to close out the front side. He birdied No. 10 from seven feet, tapped in for birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 and closed out again with birdies from 13 feet in the last two holes.
Tony Lascuna, the top money earner on the local tour the last two years, likewise moved into contention with a bogey-free 64 although he stood four strokes behind Rates at 129.
Anthony Fernando bogeyed the 17th and dropped to joint fifth with Jhonnel Ababa (66), Angelo Que (63), Elmer Salvador (66) and Canada’s Rick Gibson (67) at 130.
Miguel Tabuena had a four-under 64 for a 131, tied with Sweden’s Malcolm Kokocinski (68), Carl Santos-Ocampo (65), Orlan Sumcad (62), Richard Abaring (67) and Cassius Casas (65).
Forty three players made the cut at 138 with Rey Pagunsan firing a 67 to tie Arnold Villacencio (68), Danny Zarate (69), Albin Engino (70), Jomar Pepito (68), Rico Depilo (69), Jet Mathay (73) and Michael Bibat (70) in the tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services Inc., and backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy and media partners Balls TV and ABS-CBN.