CLARK Freeport Zone — Guido van der Valk put up a solid start but only pulled ahead on a stirring eagle-spiked windup as he led the assault on Mimosa Plus’ Acacia Lakeview course with a 66, one stroke ahead of four others after 18 holes of the ICTSI Mimosa Plus Championship here in Pampanga Tuesday.
After birdieing the first three odd-numbered holes, Van der Valk reeled back with a miscue on the par-3 No. 13 on what he described as a “sloppy” shot but closed out with a birdie-eagle-par-birdie feat.
He strung up a pair of 33s and surged past Nilo Salahog, Reymon Jaraula, Japanese Toru Nakajima and Taiwanese Ting Yu Chen.
The four matched 67s in varying fashions in sweltering conditions while Jhonnel Ababa, Dino Villanueva, Michael Bibat, Luis Bagtas and Korean Min Seong Kim posted identical 68s.
A mix of seasoned campaigners and young guns turned in identical 69s in an expected day of low scoring at the relatively flat, short 6,508-yard layout.
“Even though it’s short, you have to hit it on the right side (of the holes) because there’s a lot of hazards out there that it’s easy to hit it in if you don’t quite catch the shots,” Van der Valk said. “And the pins were not that easy. They try to keep the scoring as controlled as possible, I think.”
Still, the Dutchman’s blistering start fueled hopes of him closing out the Philippine Golf Tour season the way he had opened it.
He retained The Country Club Invitational, the flagship tournament of each PGT calendar, last February, but failed to nail a regular Tour title, finishing tied for second in the Villamor Philippine Masters. He also had Top 7 finishes and missed the cut just once at Luisita.
Van der Valk’s 66 also became the course mark, the P2 million championship being the first event Mimosa Plus is hosting since new owners Filinvest took over in 2016 and developed, renovated and modernized the two courses with the help of Nelson & Haworth Architects.
“I’m lucky, my wife (Lorabelle) caddied for me, so she kept me cool and I was good,” he added.
Salahog shot five birdies in the last nine holes, including three straight from No. 10, for a 36-31 as he tied Jaraula, Nakajima and Chen at second.
Nakajima, a former leg winner coming off a stint in the Japan Challenge Tour, and Chen, an invitee of the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc., produced a pair of five-under cards that also stood out in the early going of the 72-hole championship backed by PGTI official apparel Kampfortis Golf.