AN eagle and a birdie on the back nine helped Andres Saldana recover from a sluggish start, salvaging par 72 on Thursday to remain in control after three rounds of the 19th WExpress-DHL RVF Amateur golf championship presented by the MVP Sports Foundation at Canlubang Golf and Country Club in Laguna.
Saldana, who started the day with a three-stroke lead, was joined at the top by Rupert Zaragosa after 13 holes at the North course.
But the 19-year-old left-hander eagled the par-5 No. 14 and then birdied the 17th to take a 210 aggregate and a two-stroke lead into the last 18 holes of the PLDT Group Amateur Tour event.
Zaragosa carded a 71 for a 212 total, while Magno Arancon of Del Monte fired the day’s best 68 for a 213 aggregate.
“Of course there will be pressure, because there’s something at stake,” Saldana said as he moved within 18 holes of winning for the first time since ruling a leg of the Faldo Series at Eastridge last May.
“I just hope to be able to do what I have been doing in the first three days,” added Saldana, who turns pro next month after playing his last amateur event with Alabang in the Interclub tournament in Bacolod next week.
Lee Su-hong, a Korean expat playing out of the Riviera in Cavite, was the best-placed foreigner after firing a 69 for a 219 total, tied with Justin Quiban and the veteran John Kier Abdon.
Quiban, who played for the Philippines in last year’s Southeast Asian Games, fired a 72, while Abdon returned a 73.
Pauleen del Rosario all but wrapped up the title in the ladies side of the tournament backed by Pancake House, Golf Depot and Pacsports.
The 15-year-old high school student at La Salle-Zobel fired a second round 73 for a 143 aggregate, eight shots over Claire Amelia Legaspi, who had a 74.
Harmie Constantino carded a 71 for a 152 total.