TONY Lascuna, playing despite a back injury, fired an eagle-aided five-under 67 to take a one-stroke lead over Juvic Pagunsan at the start of the P1 million ICTSI Calatagan Challenge on Wednesday at the Calatagan Golf Club.
Last year’s top money earner had four birdies in a five-hole stretch and was six under through 17 holes but missed the green on his final hole and failed to return a six-foot putt for par for a 33 and a 67.
Still, it was enough to move him past Pagunsan, whose 68 was spiked by two early eagles on the reachable par-5 Nos. 1 and 4.
Lascuna, who placed eighth at John Hay two weeks ago, also hit an eagle on the par-5 No. 13 to make the turn at 34 then hit three straight birdies from No. 4 and gunned down another on the par-3 No. 8.
Coming off an impressive stint on the Japan PGA Tour the last two weeks, including a joint fourth place effort in Tsuruya Open, the long-hitting Pagunsan also hit two birdies and two bogeys for nines of 33-35, putting himself in early contention in one of his rare stints on the local circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Benjie Magada, seeking an end to a long title drought, was five-under heading to the last three holes but three-putted No. 7 and had a missed-green bogey on the next and settled for a 69.
Mars Pucay carded a one-under 71 as only four players broke par on a relatively short but challenging course while seven matched par 72, including Rey Pagunsan, Ruben Sasutil, Jun Bernis, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Marvin Dumandan and defending champion Mhark Fernando.
One fancied player, however, virtually bowed out of the title race early in the 54-hole championship, the third leg of this year’s 15-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Miguel Tabuena, the runaway winner of the kickoff leg at ICTSI Sherwood who lost to Jay Bayron on the second playoff hole at ICTSI Camp John Hay Championship two weeks ago, failed to get going and never recovered from a bogey-marred frontside stint of 41. The 18-year-old shot himself in the foot with an atrocious 80 for joint 52nd and in danger of missing the second-round cut.
Jay Bayron also struggled with a 75 while Elmer Salvador hobbled with a 76 in the event backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp with Balls, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Inquirer Golf as media partners.