CAVINTI, Laguna — Joenard Rates stayed hot in sun and rain then sun again and endured the blustery conditions to match his opening solid 68 and catch an equally steady Zaniebiy Gialon halfway through the ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championship here on Wednesday.
Staying out of trouble on a course where dangers practically lurk in every corner, Rates shot a couple of birdies on each side of the Caliraya Springs Golf Club and shot himself into a share of the lead at 136 and closer to another crack at a Philippine Golf Tour title.
“I’m happy to be in contention going to moving day,” said Rates. “This round is super good. I hit some good drives and avoided troubles.”
Gialon also put in a bogey-free 69 as the duo continued to flash top form on an Arnold Palmer-designed course spruced up to championship condition for its initial hosting of a PGT event.
“I had a good up-and-down game, especially at the back, and finished with a solid round,” said Gialon, who has never tasted victory since dominating the field in the ICTSI Calatagan in 2017.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk scorched the frontside on his way out with a fiery 31 to likewise churn out a four-under card. But he stood four strokes off the joint leaders at 140 in a tie with Mondilla.
“I didn’t hit very well at the frontside (backnine) but at the back, I started to hit it very good,” said Van der Valk, also out to snap a long title spell in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. “The roughs are tough, you got to hit the fairways.”
Mondilla, the 2019 Philippine Open champion at The Country Club who prevailed in a five-player playoff at Pradera Verde in 2020 before the pandemic halted play in all sports, yielded to Gialon for the second straight day with a two-birdie, one bogey round.
But he remained in the hunt and upbeat of his chances for another title shot after losng to Miguel Tabuena at ICTSI Luisita Championship last month.
A slew of aces also turned in under-par rounds under erratic weather conditions with former Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas and multi-titled Tony Lascuna pooling 141s after a 68 and 70, respectively.
Rupert Zaragosa also produced an unblemished 69 to join Albin Engino, who carded a 71, at 142 but the rest failed to wage a strong charge that would put them in the hunt heading to the last 36 holes of the P2 million championship put up by ICTSI.
Dino Villanueva also shot a 68 and former national champion Lloyd Go fired a 70 but they remained 8 shots behind at 144 in a tie with Enrico Gallardo, who matched par 72, and Reymon Jaraula, Jhonnel Ababa, Ira Alido and Rufino Bayron, who all fumbled with 73s.
But a shootout looms between Rates and Gialon, both hardly noticed when they came into the event but now hogged the spotlight with two brilliant rounds they hope to sustain tothe finish.
“I’ll just stick to my game plan — hit the fairways and make more putts,” said Rates.
“I need to stay focused. Marami kasing pwedeng pagkamalian dito,” said Gialon.