by Rey Bancod

Nay Pyi Taw — Justin Quilban missed a 15-foot eagle putt on the second hole Saturday during the team’s final day practice in the 27th Southeast Asian Games at the Royal Myanmar Golf Club.

The putt looked headed to hit the cup, but strayed to the right as Quilban tapped in for birdie on the 582-yard hole, the only par-5 hole that is reachable in two.

“Justin holds the key,” said coach Carito Villaroman murmured as he watched the boys from afar. “If he gets hot, the team is in good hands.”

Only half of the team that won the Putra Cup last July are here – Rico Hoey and Jonathan delos Reyes could not get permission from their schools in the United States.

That leaves national champion Rupert Zaragosa and US-based Jobim Carlos to carry the load for the Filipinos.

The other member of the team is John Kier Abdon, another product of junior golf.

The 72-hole event begins Sunday with Singapore looming as the Filipinos’ biggest threat.

Singapore sent the same team the Filipinos beat by 22 strokes back home at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club.

“They’re intact. We’re keeping an eye on them,” said Villaroman.

Also in the field is Malaysian Gavin Green who edged Delos Reyes for the individual crown in the Putra Cup.

Villaroman describes the course as long, relatively flat with a lot of fairway bunkers.

Except for No. 2, the par-5s average over 600 yards. The par-3s are short clubs away.

“The players may have to leave the driver in the bag in some holes to avoid the bunkers, just like on No, 8,” said Villaroman, pointing to the two fairway bunkers in the 392-yard, par-4 hole.

Villaroman said the course suits Zaragosa’s play.

“I believe Zaragosa will do well here,” he said.

The grass used in the greens is rarely seen in Southeast Asia, according to Villamor.

“It’s similar to Manila Golf and South Forbes in Laguna. One has to putt aggressively to get the ball into the hole,” he said.

Citing the course condition and ideal weather, Villaroman said a four-under par 68 would be a good target for each player.

Following the men’s flight was the women’s team of Princess Superal, Mia Legaspi and Katrina Pelen-Briones. “To add a little spice in their practice round, we put up a little wager. The No. 2 and No. 3 scorers of the men against the top two scorers of the women,” Villaroman said.

On Sunday, the men will tee off on the first hole while the women will play in the backnine.

Abdon will be first off the tee at 8:27 a.m. followed by Zaragosa, Quilban and Carlos.

In the women’s side, Legaspi will fee off at 8:36 a.m. followed by Superal and Legaspi.

Also with the team are coach Boyet Zaragosa and team manager Jun Galindes.