Tagaytay—Malaysian U Minn Woon marked his first foray in the Philippine Golf Tour Q-School in style, putting up an impressive three-under 69 to lead Nilo Salahog by two at the start of the 72-hole elims at Splendido Taal Golf Club here yesterday.
Woon, who moved to Florida at 16, played college golf at Fairleigh Dickinson University and won the St. Augustine Amateur title at St. Johns in 2018, banked on his superb all-around game to dominate the rolling, challenging layout he hardly had knowledge of. He birdied two of the first three holes at the back where he teed off and gained more strokes on Nos. 2 and 3 before holing out with a bogey on the par-5 No. 9.
Still, his 35-34 card proved enough to net him the early lead over Salahog, who birdied the first two holes at the front but scrambled with three bogeys against two more birdies in hot conditions for a 71.
Carlos Packing, a veteran inter-club campaigner, bounced back from a flawed backside 38 with birdies on Nos. 1 and 8 as he rescued a 72 for solo third, while Russell Bautista missed gaining solo second as he blew a two-under card on birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 with three bogeys in the last five holes at the front.
But the Cebuano bet still emerged the top amateur with a 73 despite dropping to joint fourth with Korean Kim Seong Guk, Japanese Toru Nakajima and Rene Menor.
Menor, who posted his first and only career victory here in PGT Asia in 2017, beating Thai Pasavee Lertvilai and American John Michael O’Toole in sudden death, also fumbled in a backside finish, bogeying Nos. 15 and 17 for a 35-38.
Nakajima, bidding to regain his PGT card after winning the Wack Wack leg in 2013, had a quiet one-birdie, double-bogey round, while Kim also squandered a one-under effort with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 9.
The top 50 and ties after 36 holes will advance to the last two rounds where the top 35 will earn Category 6 berths and the outside 35 to be included in Category 7 of the 2023 PGT starting fields.
The new regular season will kick off on March 15-18 for the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic to be followed by the Iloilo Golf Challenge on March 22-25 and the second Caliraya Springs Championship on April 18-21.
Amateur Gab Manotoc, meanwhile, had a three-birdie, three-bogey card after 14 holes but holed out with back-to-back bogeys for a 74 as he slipped from joint third to a share of eighth with Henry Bolano, Jelbert Gamolo, Josh Jorge and Japanese Gen Nagai.
While majority of the fancied bets put themselves in early contention in the elims organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., some struggled and would need to rebound strong to at least make the cut in the 89-player starting field that also drew 24 foreign hopefuls.
Former PGT Order of Merit winner Elmer Salvador groped for form after a long layoff, making four bogeys, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey against a lone birdie for an 80. He at tied 49th with former national team standout Elee Bisera, Johny Espares, Christopher Popp, Bonifacio Salahog, and Koreans Kovage Hong and Yu Hyung Park, among others.
In other results, Ferdie Aunzo, Rolando Marabe, Jr., Robert Pactolerin, Peter Villaber and Hong Kong’s Michael Wong all shot 75s while GJ Katigbak, Korean Hwan Lee, Elmer Saban and Kuresh Samanodi matched 76s.
The other top amateurs also hobbled with Coby Rolida and Leandro Bagtas finishing with 77s for joint 24th and Kristoffer Arevalo ending up with a 78 for a share of 33rd.