CANLUBANG – Korean Wang Jeung Hyun pounced on Jerson Balasabas’ third round meltdown and seized a three-stroke lead despite a one-over 73, moving in the threshold of completing another foreign invasion in the WWWExpress-DHL National Golf Championships at the north course of the Canlubang golf complex here, Feb.11.
The 14-year-old Wang, who has been with Riviera the last two years, held his own against his veteran rivals in the featured flight, bucking a bogey-bogey opening with birdies on Nos. 6 and 9 before holing out with another bogey for a 36-37 round.
Still, it was enough to net him the lead as Balasabas, who started the day three-up on the unfancied Wang, never recovered from a 39 at the front marred by three bogeys and a double bogey. The two-day leader birdied No. 10 but dropped two strokes on the par-4 12th and made an eight on the par-5 14 before dropping another stroke on the tough finishing hole against two birdies for a seven-over 79.
That knocked him down to joint second with ICTSI-Cangolf teammate Jhonnel Ababa, who fired a two-under 70 to get back into the thick of things at 217 heading into the final 18 holes of the tournament sponsored by WWWExpress and DHL and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Phils.
In the ladies side, SEA Games gold medalist Chihiro Ikeda faltered in the last nine holes at the front and barely hung on to a one-shot lead over Sarah Ababa with a five-over 77 for a 147 with one round left in the 54-hole event.
Ikeda, chasing her third straight championship here, threatened to pull away with an even par 36 at the back but stumbled with three bogeys and a double bogey in a birdie-less stint at the front, enabling the rest to get a crack at the crown.
Ababa limped with a 76 but moved within one at 148 while another Korean Km Hui Mang also made a 76 and stood four shots behind at 151.
Dottie Ardina, winner of last week’s Southern Ladies Open in Iloilo, carded a 75 and also moved to fourth with a 153.
Reigning national champion Mhark Fernando turned in a steady one-under 71 and stayed in the hunt for the crown at 218, four shots adrift, while former Hong Kong Amateur Open champion Dante Becierra shot the day’s best score of three-under 69 under tough condition to solo fifth with a 219.
Becierra gunned down six birdies under scorching heat but stumbled with three bogeys although his 35-34 card enabled the top ICTSI-The Country Club to wheel back into contention after an opening 77.
Zanie Boy Gialon, also with ICTSI-TCC, bounced back from a 40 with birdies in the last two holes to save a round of 74 although he slipped to sixth at 220, six shots off Wang, who will try to duplicate Singapore’s Quincy Quek thrilling six-hole playoff triumph over Ferdie Aunzo last year.
Ok Jae Seong, also of Korea, stood in seventh with a 222 after a 73 while Miguel Tabuena sputtered at the back with a 39 for a 75 and a 223 followed a pair of Koreans Seo Hyen Yeom and Kim Jin Huh, who shot identical 73s for 224 and 225, respectively.