DAVAO CCITY – Tony Lascuña hit a clutch birdie on the par-3 17th to wrest control then matched Miguel Tabuena’s closing birdie to win by one with a 69 and nail the elusive crown in the P1.5 million ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational at the Apo Golf and Country Club here Saturday.
Bracing for a playoff after a day-long shootout with the young gun, the veteran Lascuña came away with a solid 7-iron tee-shot on the 170-yard hole to within four feet then two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th to frustrate Tabuena and finally score a victory after nine legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“It’s nice to win again but it was tough. Miguel was just as steady until I hit that lucky shot on the 17th,” said Lascuña, who got into the mix with another 69 in the topsy-turvy third round and wound up with an eight-under 280 worth P270,000.
Unlike in his past failed bids marred by final round foldups, Lascuña steeled himself this time, out-steadying the hottest player on the circuit sposnroed and winning it all with those closing back-to-back birdies.
What made his first win this season sweeter was he did on a course he calls home.
“I really got inspired playing before home crowd and I hope this win will spark some kind of a run again,” said Lascuña, who racked up five victories last year to keep the Order of Merit crown for the third straight year but went on a winless run in the first eight stages of the circuit organized Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Tabuena regained a one-shot lead when Lascuña bogeyed No. 12, only to yield it again after dropping a shot on the par-5 13th. He flubbed a birdie-putt from long range on the 17th to trail again.
He overshot the green on the 18th and pitched to with five feet for birdie and a 71 and a 281, posting his fourth runner-up finish in a solid campaign he spiked with victories at Splendido and Palos Verdes. He received P185,000.
Elmer Salvador moved within one for the last time with a birdie on No. 12 but fumbled with three bogeys in the next six holes and needed to birdie the last to salvage a 72 for solo third at 284 worth P105,000.
Frankie Miñoza, who co-shared the lead halfway through, rallied with a 69 and snared fourth place at 286 and P85,000 while Davao-based American Micah Shin fired the tournament-best 65 to snatch fifth place at 287 and P68,500.
Zanieboy Gialon carded a 70 and tied Jay Bayron, who faltered with a 75, at sixth at 290 while Nilo Salahog placed eighth at 291 after a 76 and Randy Garalde bounced back with a 67 to end up ninth at 292, one ahead of Reymon Jaraula, who shot a 70 for a 293.
One behind Tabuena after 54 holes, Lascuña snatched the lead with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 but Tabuena countered with his own birdie on the eighth and the two slugged it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in the next eight holes until Lascuña bogeyed the 12th on an errant pitch shot from just around 20 yards and made a bogey to trail again.
But Tabuena hit an errant drive on No. 13 and the two traded missed birdie putts in the next three holes until Lascuña hacked a superb tee-shot on the 17th.
“You have to play solid to beat Miguel. He’s so good,” said Lascuña, looking forward to the ICTSI Classic at Mt. Malarayat on July 29-Aug. 1 and the Aboitiz Invitational at Manila Southwoods on Aug. 5-8.