SILANG, CAVITE, February 27, 2004  (STAR) Immature. That’s how NGAP (National Golf Association of the Philippines) president and former patron Rod Feliciano described Frankie Miñoza’s decision to withdraw from the DHL-Philippine Open on the eve of the fabled event Wednesday.

"I feel sorry that he didn’t continue (to play)," said Feliciano, the man who brought Miñoza to the US Masters in August in 1991. "May pinagsamahan naman kami, para tuloy nabalewala lahat yun."

In a move that left the $150,000 Open without its top attraction, Miñoza decided to pull out of the event when he found out that his two Japanese guests were not included in the starting list. He claimed that he was expecting that his earlier request, which Miñoza coursed through business manager Thirdy Escano, for his two guests to play here was granted only to be told otherwise late Tuesday.

Miñoza said this embarrassed him no end to his guests, whose parents have actually lined up some tournaments for the Filipino pros in Japan this year. And only by withdrawing would make them believed that the top Filipino player had indeed made efforts to include them in the list. Benny Gopez, chair of the organizing committee, however, said that he never made any commitment to Escano with regards to the awarding of three slots to Miñoza’s guests, whom, Gopez claimed, were not only foreigners but also amateurs who do not have any credentials to speak of in the first place. "I would rather give the slots to the Filipino pros," said Gopez.

But Feliciano said Miñoza’s problem could’ve been solved had he approached the DHL top honcho personally long before he tasked Escano to do the request. "Medyo nagkamali si Frankie at kay Thirdy niya pinadaan. He could’ve talked to me and I could’ve made the proper arrangement," said Feliciano. "By withdrawing, he showed a little immaturity." — Dante Navarro

Aussie fires record 65, leads by 2 By Dante Navarro The Philippine Star 02/27/2004

SILANG, Cavite–With Frankie Miñoza making good his threat to pull out of the DHL-Philippine Open, a steady pro from Down Under tamed the terrors lurking on the unpredictable greens of Riviera’s Langer layout for a course record six-under par 65 yesterday and a two-stroke lead at the start of the $150,000 event here yesterday.

While others struggled even in ideal conditions prevailing in the early morning flights, Adam Groom, a 25-year-old Australian hitter playing on his second year as a pro, took advantage of them and gunned down five birdies inside 10 feet in the first 11 holes to go five-under en route to a two-shot lead over India’s Amandeep Johl.

Groom momentarily stumbled with a missed-green bogey on the long par-3 No. 12 but made for this by firing two birdies in the last six holes, including another 10-footer on the tricky No. 18 for that 32-33 card. The lean many-time member of Australian national team to World Cup and Eisenhower Cup, however, downplayed the talent and skills that he had showed and instead credited his good, ideal round to good fortune.

"The course is tough, it’s long but it’s good. Luckily, I hit the ball straight and my putting is good. If you don’t putt well and you go to the cliffs, you’re in big trouble here," said Groom. His 65 broke the existing mark of 70 set by Gerald Rosales in third round in the 2000 Open. Luckier was Carito Villaroman who drove home with a brand-new Mitsubishi Lancer worth P750,000 when he aced the 180-yard No. 4 using a Titleist 7-iron and a Pro-V IX ball that hit the fringe, bounced once on the undulating green before disappearing into the cup.

"I tried to put it behind me and tried to play it hole by hole. But somehow hindi mo maialis sa isip ang sarap ng pakiramdam na maka hole-in-one at manalo ng kotse," said Villaroman who shot a 75.

Villaroman did the feat when the second batch of the 159-player field was starting to open their respective bids in this four-day championship serving as the fifth leg of the Asian Tour. No make that 158 as Miñoza decided to withdraw and informed the Asian Tour organizers just before his scheduled tee-off time at 11:27 a.m.

"When I woke up he was already on his way to the airport," said Roger Retuerto, Miñoza’s confidante and swing guru who had stayed with him at the Manor Southwoods in Carmona. By the time defending champion Rick Gibson of Canada and former Asian No. 1 Jyoti Randhawa —Miñoza’s scheduled flightmates — in the most anticipated threesome of the first round — the 44-year old Bukidnon native had already boarded the second flight out of Manila for Cagayan de Oro. Without Miñoza, the foreigners practically lorded it over the local field with Johl taking second place with a 67 he dished out in a flight that included the lone lady in the fold — Ria Quiazon, who shot an 84 on her historic stint in an all-male pro event.

Another Australian, Jason Moon and European Tour veteran Jeev Milkha Singha both had 68 to share third place before Tony Lascuna and unheralded Edwin Estrera towed the fifth group with 69 cards. In the group were Richard Moir and David Gieeson, both of Australia. Defending champion Rick Gibson had a 72.

For a while, the diminutive Edwin Sanchez made some noise by going six-under after 10 holes, including a bogey-less five-birdie stint at the backside, the frontside of his game yesterday. But he threw them all away coming home, bogeying No. 2, 4, 7 and 9 while double-bogeying No. 5. He wound up with an even par 71.

"Biglang ninerbyos. Halos lahat ng palo pigil," rued Sanchez.

The other RP bets, however, turned in under-par scores with 1990 champion Robert Pactolerin leading a big one-under par group that included Benjie Magada, and amateurs Jay Bayron and Artemio Murakami. Cassius Casas, champion in 2001 at Wack Wack, failed to get his rhythm going and settled for a 74.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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