Veteran Richard Sinfuego gunned down six birdies yesterday to fire a 5-under-par 67 and take a one-stroke lead over Michael Bibat and Elmer Salvador after the first round of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.
Sinfuego birdied three of the last five holes to complete a 33-34 card that kept Bibat and Salvador at bay even as Antonio Lascuña led a six-man group that carded 69s on a layout that played relatively easy as a total of 18 players cracked par.
Among the par-breakers was the legendary Frankie Miñoza, the 53-year-old who became a household name after launching his career as a Del Monte bet in the PAL Interclub. The reigning Japan Senior Open champion carded a 70 and was just three strokes off.
Sinfuego, playing out of Canlubang in Laguna, could prove to be a dangerous customer on a course situated in the heart of a vast pineapple plantation because it doesn’t play that long.
He nailed his first three birdies in the last five holes of the front nine, dropped a shot on the par-3 12th, then finished in a flurry.
Sinfuego also wants to erase a bitter memory on this course where he was disqualified in 2010 together with the other members of the final flight—Juvic Pagunsan and Salvador—for a final hole infraction that also cost Salvador a win.
Mars Pucay and Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk were both at 71 with another former Del Monte player, Clyde Mondilla, shooting a 72 like Jessie Balasabas and five others, including lefty amateur Andres Saldana.
Bibat, seeking a second straight triumph after winning at Palos Verdes in Cagayan de Oro last week, eagled the par-5 14th on top of three birdies and a bogey.
Miguel Tabuena and Carl Santos-Ocampo joined former Philippine Open champion Robert Pactolerin at 73, with Tabuena gunning down two late birdies to recover from a three-over card after 13 holes.
Mark Fernando, the defending champion, was also at 73, with Cassius Casas, who won in 2010 following the final flight’s disqualification, shooting a 74 along with 13 others.