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Zaragoza grabs lead

Rupert Zaragosa primed up for the knockout phase as he closed out the 36-hole stroke play elims with a solid three-under 69 yesterday, grabbing the top seeding from erstwhile leader Jolo Magcalayo in the Philippine Amateur Open Match Play Golf Championship at the Orchard Golf and Country Club in Dasmariñas, Cavite yesterday.

Zaragosa, who dropped a 3$2 decision to Noel Langamin in last year’s finals, hit three birdies in another scorching but windy day to string a 35-34 card and top the elims with a 142 aggregate, one ahead of Magcalayo, who slowed down with a 72 after a 71 for a 143.

Luis Castro placed third at 145 after a 72 while Langamin rebounded from a 78 with a 70 to snare fourth place at 148 with Jonas Magcalayo and Carlo Villaroman taking the next two spots with 152s after a 76 and 77, respectively, and Aniceto Mandanas and Kristoffer Arevalo winding up with 153s after identical 80s.

Yuka Saso, on the other hand, took the top seeding in women’s play with a second straight 74 for a 148 while erstwhile co-leader Harmie Constantino settled for No. 2 at 149 after a 75. Sophia Blanco gained No. 3 with a 158 after an 80 while Kayla Nocum and Korean Kim Hui Won finished with 159s after identical 79s.

Zaragosa steps up his title drive beginning at 6:30 a.m. today (Wednesday) as he takes on No. 32 Alexi Garzon at the start of the knockout phase of the event sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation and held as part of the PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour.

Magcalayo drew Korean Won Yong Hwi while Castro squares off with Peter Asinas and Langamin battles Tommy Jeong in the other featured pairings in the tournament organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and backed by Cignal and Metro Pacific Investment.

Saso, gunning for a second crown in as many weeks after a record 13-stroke romp in the Phl Junior Amateur at Sherwood, Constantino, Blanco and Nocum drew opening round byes in their side of the match play tipped to produce surprises and reversals.

In other men’s pairings, Jonas Magcalayo slugs it out with Gabby Macalaguim (81-172), Villaroman faces Leandro Bagtas (87-171), Mandanas clashes with Joseph Orbito (85-166), Arevao collides with Airon Sorino (84-165), No. 9 Peter Po (75-154) tangles with Steven Ferrer (85-164), and Richnell Albano mixes it up with Jay Anderson (79-164).

Elsewhere, it’s Japanese Takuya Kawamura (78-159) vs Korean Choi Da Bin (82-160), Lester Lagman (77-159) vs Korean Seung Back Hyeon (80-161), Don Petil (77-157) vs Ronel Tagaa (78-162), GJ Katigbak (78-158) vs Ralph Lauron (84-161), Liam Cully (78-156) vs Nathan Kawpeng (81-162) and Dan Cruz (78-154) vs A