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Japanese up by 2 shots

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Katsuragawa fires 3-under 69; Saso leads.

SILANG, Cavite – Yuto Katsuragawa sustained his fiery form and shot a three-under 69 but Paolo Wong rallied late in the day with a 71 as they took the 1-2 spots at the start of the 2017 Philippine Amateur Golf Championship at the Riviera’s Couples course here yesterday.

Riding the crest of his victory in the NGAP National Doubles Championship with Carl Corpus last week at Aguinaldo, the 18-year-old Japanese continued to sizzle even in the rain, gunning down three birdies against a bogey at the back to cap a 35-34 card and seize control of the tough international field.

He actually stood five shots clear of Aniceto Mandanas and two other foreign rivals until Wong came in with two birdies in the last three holes to card a 71 and assume the challenger’s role.

While Katsuragawa thundered at the back, Mandanas blew a two-under card after 10 holes with four bogeys in the last eight holes, finishing with a 74 in a tie with Koreans Joo Hyung Kim and Min Jun Lee and thai Sadom Kaewkanjana in the four-day championship held under the PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour and sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart and Metro Pacific Investment Corp.

Joo birdied the par-2 No. 5 but floundered and hobbled with three bogeys in a six-hole stretch from No. 7 and settled for pars the rest of the way while Min made two bogeys in a birdie-less stint and Kaewkanjana stumbled with four bogeys against two bogeys to force a four-way tie at second.

Corpus carded a decent 37 at the front but reeled with a double-bogey mishap on No. 11 to lead the 75 scorers, who included Taiwanese Han Wei Chiu and local bets Carlo Quimson, Ira Alido and Luis Castro.

Rupert Zaragosa failed to follow-up on a birdie-comeback on No. 9 after three bogeys with a closing 42 marred by two double bogeys as the former champion limped with an 80 and fell to joint 31st, 11 strokes behind the hot-starting Katsuragawa, who also anchored Manila Southwoods’ dominant win in the Fil-Am Championship in Baguio recently.

A confident Katsuragawa parred the first three holes, birdied two of the next four against a bogey then parred the last two at the front to tie Mandanas in the early lead. The duo stayed on top after birdying the 10th, but the Japanese hit another birdie on No. 13 then dropped a stroke on the par-4 15th before birdying the last par-5 at No. 16.

No player was able to match his finish although Mandanas, who faded with a pair of back-to-back bogeys from Nos. 11 and 17, and the rest of the huge field are expected to rebound in today’s second round. Fancied Yuka Saso birdied three of the last seven holes to fire a 69 and likewise wrested a two-stroke lead over reigning champion Harmie Constantino in the ladies play.

Saso, the reigning World Junior Girls champion, rammed in a birdie on No. 4 then recovered from a double-bogey mishap on No. 7 with birdies on Nos. 9, 12, 16 and 18 in one of the late flights as she lived upto the pre-tournament billing as the player to beat in the country’s premier amateur championship.

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