Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club course in Lipa City

Antonio Asistio sizzled with a seven-under par 65 to seize a three-shot lead over ICTSI teammate Miko Alejandro at start of the two 54-hole national team qualifier at the Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club course in Lipa City, Batangas yesterday.

Asistio, who finished second to Jhonnel Ababa in the first 36-hole stroke play elims during the RP Amateur last month, frolicked at the frontside of the par-72 layout with six birdies, including three straight from No. 7, to negate a two-bogey mishap then added three more at the back to complete a stirring round of 32-33.

The top ICTSI bet was actually eyeing a 64 card under ideal playing condition but three-putted the par-5 18th for par.

Still, the 65 gave Asistio the big start in the grueling qualifier conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines to select the members of the RP team competing in next month’s Putra Cup in Thailand.

From Malarayat, the 10-man field will head for Riviera for the last set of the elims, another 54-hole tournament with the top six making the RP pool and the top four spearheading the team to the Putra Cup championship.

Alejandro also made a solid start of 32 and wound up with a 68 while another ICTSI bet, former Hong Kong Amateur Open champion Dante Becierra fired a two-under 70 for third.

Reigning national champion Mark Fernando opened up with a 33 but faltered with three bogeys in the first five holes at the back, needing to birdie the par 17th to salvage a one-under 71 for fourth.

Rufino Bayron, who won a pro tournament last year at Valley, matched par 72 while Peter Villaber carded a 75 followed by Jhonnel Ababa, John Kier Abdon, Dino Villanueva and Albin Engino with 75, 76, 77 and 78, respectively.

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