TARLAC – Cebuano Charles Hong pounced on erstwhile leader Clyde Mondilla’s early foldup and Keanu Jahns’ backside meltdown to wrest control then fended off three rivals with a gritty finish to salvage a two-under 70 and capture the ICTSI Luisita Championship crown by two at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here Saturday.
Hong came through with clutch birdies on Nos. 12 and 15 in scorching heat and foiled Orlan Sumcad, Tony Lascuña and Marvin Dumandan’s threats in separate flights with a brave run of pars in the last three holes, including the tough par-3 17th, to bag the hotly-disputed crown with a 15-under 273 total worth P360,000.
“This victory validates my two other wins that I can do it anytime,” said Hong, who nipped Richard Sinfuego in sudden death at ICTSI Pueblo de Oro for his maiden win in 2012 then rallied from behind to nip young American Micah Shin by one at ICTSI Sherwood Hills last year.
Hong, a product of Sacred Heart School for Boys (now SHS-Ateneo de Cebu) was once a top junior golfer at Cebu Country Club. He held both the junior club and the club championship in the same year.
With Mondilla and Jahns dropping out of contention one after the other with a 41 start for an 80 (Mondilla) and a 40 finish for a 75 (Jahns), Hong kept his focus and only asked for the update when they headed to the difficult long No. 17, which he said could make-or-break one’s title bid.
“I didn’t dare to ask on what’s happening in the flights ahead and just concentrated on my game since I was not doing good for most part of the day.” said Hong. “And because I didn’t know what’s happening, I was able to take care on fixing my game and it also took some pressure off.
“But I precisely asked on No. 17 because that’s the toughest hole, which played to around 215 yards,” added Hong, who kept his run of under-par rounds that included a 66, 68 and 69 over the par-72 layout which made its return to the pro circuit after 26 years.
Sumcad tried to duplicate Angelo Que’s feat last week when the three-time Asian Tour winner rallied from six shots down to snare the ICTSI Anvaya plum as the power-hitting pro sizzled at the back with six birdies in the last eight. But Sumcad ran out of holes and settled for joint second at 275 despite a second straight 66.
Five behind Hong two flights ahead, Lascuña recalled the form that netted him five ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour leg victories last year, birdying four of the first five holes and catching the Cebuano bet at 14-under with another birdie on No. 14.
But Hong birdied No. 15 and Lascuña bogeyed the par-3 17th as the latter ended up with a 67 to share runner-up honors with Sumcad at 275.
Dumandan made it a three-way for second as the long-hitting pro, who trailed Hong by four after 54 holes, moved within one with a birdie on No. 11 but failed to gain headway with flubbed birdie chances in at least two holes in the last seven and wound up with a 69.
Sumcad, Lascuña and Dumandan each got P168,333.
Jay Bayron also rallied at the back with four birdies in the last seven holes to save a 70 and snare solo fifth at 276 and took home P89,000 while Frankie Miñoza, the last player to win at Luisita in the 1989 President’s Cup, birdied No. 16 to likewise salvage a 70 for solo sixth at 277 worth P78,000.
Jahns, who sparked hopes of a breakthrough win in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI when he surged ahead of the elite field with a solid 36-hole output of 11-under 133 Thursday, held his ground with a gutsy 35 start but faded with a bogey on the par-5 12th and fell to joint seventh instead with a double-bogey on No. 16 and a bogey on the final hole. He wound up with a 40 for a 75 and a 278 in a tie with Jhonnel Ababa and Zanie Boy Gialon, who shot a 67 and 73, respectively. Each received P57,666.
Elmer Salvador failed to sustain a fiery third round 67 as he stumbled with a one-over 73 and tumbled to solo 10th at 279 and got P45,000.
Worse was Mondilla, who moved 18 holes away from nailing his second career win after topping the ICTSI Canlubang leg last year when he grabbed the solo lead with a hot finish of 33 for a 67 in the third round. But he made a cold start in the final round, bogeying three of the first four holes to drop out of the lead, made two more bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7 and fell with a thud with a 41.
The young pro did fight back with two birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 but dropped five strokes in the last four holes, marred by double-bogey mishaps on Nos. 15 and 18 and shot himself in the foot with a fat 80. He ended up at No. 15 with a 282.