Hong dominates Sherwood hills classic

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Charles Hong leaned on a two-shot swing on No. 12 to seize control then finished off Micah Shin with birdies in the closing holes to fire a four-under 68 and rule the rich ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic by two at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Saturday.

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Hong came away with clutch birdies in scorching heat coming home, the first off a solid 5-iron tee shot on the par-3 185-yard No. 16 that landed two feet off the cup and the other from five feet off another superb approach shot on the 17th as he thwarted Shin’s comeback bid to nail his second career win with a 12-under 276 total.

But his latest triumph, worth a whopping P650,000, was six times more than what he earned when he nipped veteran Richard Sinfuego in sudden death in the ICTSI Pueblo de Oro leg in 2012 to clinch his maiden win, moving him from No. 10 to second (P845,930) in the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit ranking behind absentee Tony Lascuna (P885,000) after four legs of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.

Hong, who hit three eagles to shoot a 65 and bounce back into contention in the third round Friday, had appeared headed for another playoff finish when Shin birdied No. 15 from five feet to force a tie at 11-under but the former proved steadier in the end, coming through with those birdies in a big windup for a young pro who bounced back from a missed cut stint at ICTSI John Hay with a strong joint third place finish at ICTSI Eagle Ridge two weeks ago.

Despite the setback, Shin showed he got what it takes to be a winner as the 17-year-old Davao-based shotmaker, who finished 33rd in the OOM ranking in his rookie season last year, took the runner-up honors at 11-under 277 worth P430,000.

Shin, who wrested the lead from first day leader Randy Garalde and hung tough to keep his two-shot lead intact heading to the final round, dropped off the leaderboard with a bogey-bogey mishap on Nos. 11 and 12, but tied Hong, which birdied the par-5 12th, with a birdie on No. 15, only to reel back in the face of Hong’s blazing finish.

Not even a bogey on the 72nd hole could stymie Hong’s drive for a second championship on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments,
Inc. although Shin’s pitch shot for birdie—and a playoff—almost went in.

With Garalde failing to make a last-ditch charge, Shin and Hong slugged it out in the first nine holes with the former birdying the opening hole to go 3-up and the latter fighting back with his own birdie on the second.

Hong dropped a shot on the third to fall behind by three again but gained a two-shot swing with a birdie on the next coupled by Shin’s bogey to close within one.

But Shin struck with back-to-back birdies from No. 7 to go three-up again but bogeyed the ninth to bring the duel to where it started – Shin up by two.

Garalde wound up with a 73 and placed third at 281 worth P240,000 while Zanie Boy Gialon rallied with the tournament-best eight-under 64 to snatch fourth place at 282 and pocket P195,000 in the event backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers, which also offers P50,000 for the Player of the Year at the end of the season.

Jay Bayron, winner at ICTSI Splendido, ended up fifth at 283 after a 69 (P155,000) followed by Mars Pucay (69-284-P135,000) and Elmer Salvador (70-285-P115,000), while Frankie Minoza (71), Canadian Rick Gibson (73) and Jessie Balasabas (74) finished tied for eighth at 286 and received P83,833 each.

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