BACOLOD CITY – Frankie Miñoza is already 63-years-old but has never ceased to delight his followers – old and young.
As he continued to defy Father Time, tough greens and blustery conditions, Miñoza produced another vibrant round of one-under 69 to wrest a three-stroke lead over erstwhile co-leader Albin Engino halfway through the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Classic presented by MORE Power here yesterday.
Two birdies in a solid frontside windup enabled the former Asia’s No. 1 to overcome a shaky backside 36 and buck the wind that bedeviled the games of majority of his pursuers, leaving him as the only player from the starting field of 66 to put in back-to-back under-par rounds at the challenging Marapara course.
“Like in the first round, I played very good, driving almost perfect. My irons are good and though my putting was not as good, it was acceptable,” said the 64-year-old Miñoza, who was as surprised as the rest of the stellar cast to be on top of the heap with a 137 aggregate he spiked with a first round 68.
“Fatigue will be a big factor, I’m getting old. There are still two more days, so I can’t talk about my chances,” said Minoza, who edged Miguel Tabuena in sudden death here to nail his last victory in 2016. “But I’ll do my best – hit the ball good and be patient – and let’s see what happens.”
Don Petil actually tried to make things happen, threatening to grab the lead with a sterling four-under card after 15 holes in the heat and wind. But like the other pursuers, the 29-year-old shotmaker, who turned pro last October, cracked when the going got tougher, closing out with a disastrous bogey-double bogey-bogey finish.
Engino also reeled back with a frontside 38 marred by poor putting but he recovered with two birdies against a bogey in the last seven holes to salvage a 72 and lift him back to second at 140.
A mix of players made it a seven-way logjam at third at 141, led by veteran Jay Bayron and recent qualifier Carlos Packing, who fired identical 68s, while Dino Villanueva blew an eagle-spiked four-under card after five holes with a bogey-riddled backside 39 and ended up with a 70.
“I had a hard time reading (the speed of) the greens at the backnine and I somewhat felt comfortable,” rued Villanueva, who birdied the first hole, hit a solid Hybrid shot from 228 yards on No. 2 to within 10 feet and made the putt for eagle, then gained another stroke on No. 5 for a frontside 31 that tied him with Minoza, who birdied No. 10, at three-under overall.
Other with one-over par outputs were Jhonnel Ababa, who birdied the ninth to likewise save a 70, Rupert Zaragosa and Nilo Salahog, who matched 71s, and Ira Alido, who rebounded from a horrendous backside 40 with four birdies against a bogey in the last nine holes for a 72.
The other big guns also safely made the Top 40 and ties cut at 149 with Clyde Mondilla and Rico Depilo battling back from a pair of 74s with 68s to tie Anthony Fernando (70), Tony Lascuna (72), Ferdie Aunzo, Jun Bernis (72) and Petil at 142, while Art Arbole carded a 71 for a 143, and Richard Sinfuego and The Country Club Invitational runaway winner Guido van der Valk rallied with 68 and 69, respectively, for joint 18th at 144 with Zanieboy Gialon and Reymon Jaraula, who shot 72 and 74, respectively.