Dodge Kemmer had to wait more than a year to find out what he thought was possible.
The 25-year-old American played flawlessly on a trying day at Wack Wack East yesterday, shooting a bogey-less six-under-par 66 to take a two-shot lead over Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit after the opening round of the Asian Tour’s Solaire Open.
“I knew it was out there (a low score) and I knew that I had it in me,” Kemmer said after polishing off nines of 32-34 with a routine par on the 18th of the heavily wooded par-72 layout that has proven to be one of the toughest tests on the Tour.
“Last year (during the Philippine Open), I had a four under through 10 in one of the rounds,” said Kemmer, an Asian Tour qualifying school graduate who came into this $300,000 event having won less than $900 in three events this year.
Pawin, another unheralded bet, also had six birdies but dropped shots on Nos. 11 and 14 to settle for second, even as the veteran Mars Pucay ended up as the only Filipino in the top 10 after submitting a 69 like Taiwanese veteran Lin Weng-tang.
Pucay, the former teeboy at the Baguio Country Club who is seeking his first big victory as a pro, had all four of his birdies in a 36-33 card coming after a bogey on the third hole.
Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan was one of three players with 71s, including Mo Joong-kyung, the beer-bellied Korean who finished second by five shots to Singaporean Mardan Mamat last year in the PH Open.
All told, only 12 sub-par rounds were surrendered by the age-old layout, seven of them in the relative calm of the morning.
Juvic Pagunsan, the 2011 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, and two-time Tour winner Angelo Que salvaged 72s to remain in the mix like Thailand’s Chawalit Phlapol and Danny Chia of Malaysia.
Que, who won his PH Open title in 2008 by one stroke over Chia, salvaged his round by gunning down four of his five birdies on his final nine, while Pagunsan had a two-under card going until he double bogeyed the par-3 16th.
Arnold Villacencio and Carl Santos-Ocampo also matched par.
Mamat was the last foreigner to win at Wack Wack, but he struggled all round like sentimenal local favorite Frankie Miñoza.
“I was no good today,” Mamat said after carding a 76.
Miñoza, the Open champion seven years ago, could do no better than a 77 like another former Open champ, American Anthony Kang.
Antonio Lascuña blew a two-under card on his back nine when he dropped three shots on his last five holes, including one on the camel back-shaped 178-yard par-3 eighth where he hit short of the green with a six-iron.
Lascuña settled for a 73 like Miguel Tabuena, the teenager who is raring to erase bitter memories of a final-round collapse against Mamat last year.
The leading scores (Filipino unless stated):
66—D. Kemmer (US) 32-34; 68—Pawin I (Tha) 33-35 ; 69—Lin WT (Tpe) 34-35 , M. Pucay 36-33; 70—M. Jager (Aus) 34-36, Baek SH (Kor) 35-35, D. Kataoka (Jpn) 34-36, Piya S (Tha) 35-35, Rattanon W (Tha) 33-37; 71—Mo JK (Kor) 37-35, T. Hiratsuka (Jpn) 35-36, Kwanchai T (Tha) 35-36; 72— Thanyakon K (Tha) 35-37, Wang JH (Kor) , Lin WH (Tpe) 33-39, A. Que 40-32, R. Lee (Can), Lin KC (Tpe) 38-34, R. Hie (Ina) 35-37, Donlaphatchai N (Tha) 36-36, Y. Tsukada (Jpn) 38-34, J. Pagunsan 36-36, Chawalit P (Thai) 39-33, Young N (Kor) 37-35, Kim GW (Kor) 37-35, S. Griffiths (Eng) 36-36, D. Chia (Mas) 35-37, A. Villacencio 36-36, C. Santos-Ocampo 36-36; 73—Chiang CC (Tpe), Jerson Balasabas, A. Groom (Aus), Koh DS (Sin), S. Brazel (Aus), R. McCarthy (Aus), S. Hussin (Mas), C. Rodgers (Eng), Thammanoon S (Tha), Gunn C (Tha), A. Lascuña, U. Park (Aus), M. Tabuena, J. Kennegard (Swe), P. Karmis (RSA); 74—E. Marcelo (a), Hu M (Chn), J. Bayron, Lam CB (Sin), K. Ichihara (Jpn), E. Salvador, Hwang IC (Kor), Panuwat M (Tha), J. Higginbottom (Aus), Zaw M (Myn), Namchok T (Tha), Z. B. Gialon, M. Bibat, Hsu MN (Tpe).