BAGUIO – Mizuno held its ground at the short but tougher Baguio Country Club and pooled 123 Molave points but defending champion Forest Hills stood just a point behind at 122 in a spirited start in the Fil Championship division of the 64th San Miguel Fil-Am Men’s Invitational golf tournament on Tuesday.
Amateur ace Justin Limjap bucked a pickup on No. 9 with a slew of gutsy pars at the backside of the par-61 up-and-down layout, finishing with 32 points while Raymond Sangil backed him up with 31 and skipper King Stehmeier and brother Ace Stehmeier added a pair of 30s.
Rodel Mangulabnan struggled with 22 points and didn’t count in the five-to-play, four-to-count format event backed by title sponsor San Miguel Corp. and presented by Toyota.
“We are lucky to be in the lead. BCC’s course is really a difficult course to play. It is important to hit the greens with consistency to be able to have birdie opportunities. That will be the team’s goal in the second round,” said King Stehmeier.
The Mizuno Superstars indeed proved lucky to be barely on top as Forest Hills, which snatched last year’s crown on a final round infraction by Mizuno, produced an impressive 122 as young Gabriel Atienza turned in the day’s best score of 38 points, two-under in stroke play.
With Ronnie Littaua churning out 32 markers and team captain Raffy Garcia and Migs Garcia tossing in 26 points apiece, the Antipolo-based squad were more than happy to be right in the mix.
“We exceeded our target here at BCC which is 120 points. So we’re more than okay with just a point behind,” said Raffy Garcia.
But a three-way fight looms in the centerpiece division as unfancied Team Sparta assembled a 117 to stay just six points behind Mizuno on a course that rewards accurate shots but punishes the wayward ones.
Former national team mainstay and ex-pro Tonlits Asistio shot 31 to tow Team Sparta to third with Erwin Temeña adding a 30, Rading Decepida putting in a 29 and Alex Ignacio chipping in a 27. Allan Pasion’s 18 was scratched off the tally board.
Manila Southwoods, however, lay too far behind at 107 after veteran campaigner Junjun Plana shot a 28, Manfred Guangko a 27 and Ferdie Agustin and Teody Pascual a 26 each.
Mizuno, with Tonito Payumo firing 35 points, also wrested control in the Am Championship division with a 119 at the nearby Camp John Hay course, two points ahead of Batangas Barakos, which pooled a 117. Northwoods Pacsports had a 114 for third while Che’Lus assembled a 109 for fourth.
Other scorers for Mizuno were Joaquin Tolentino, Raymond Bunquin and Denden de Castro, who all scored 28 points.
Jun Arceo, meanwhile, matched par worth 36 points for the under-rated but equally talented Batangas Barakos, which drew 27 points apiece from Gerald Katigbak, Howie Sison and Rudy Amata.
Northwood Pacsports drew 31 points from Nicholas Santiano’s 31 while Dennis Gonzales had 30, Von Sarmiento added a 27 and Richard Joson tossed in a 26.
The other sponsors of the event are Wilson, Rudy Project, Empire Golf, Megafiber, Pacsports, BCC, CJH Manor, Poro Point Thunderbird Resorts, Forest Lodge, Le Chef, Rizgolf, CJH Dev. Co., John Hay Coffee Services, University of Baguio, Alveo, North Luzon Expressway, The Residences at Brent, GPS Tracker and GMJ Constructors.