Charles Hong’s joint ninth place finish in the just-concluded Asian Tour event at Manila Southwoods has made him an instant contender in the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship which unfolds on Wednesday at Wack Wack’s East Course.
If not for a third round mishap, the 25-year-old Hong would have vied for the crown in the $750,000 event won by Chinese Liang Wen-chong in a playoff over Thai Prom Meesawat at Southwoods’ Masters layout.
“It was hard to tell what could’ve happened if I had a nice third round,” said Hong, who put himself in early contention with 66 and 70 but fell back with a third round three-over 75 card.
He, however, fought back with a seven-under 65 in the final round for a 12-under 276, just four shots of Liang’s winning 272 output, as he emerged the best Filipino player after Angelo Que, who shared the halfway lead, faltered and never recovered.
The Cebuano hopes to sustain his fine form going to the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour’s season-ending championship at Wack Wack where he seeks to nail a second career victory after scoring a breakthrough at ICTSI Pueblo de Oro last year.
But Hong will be facing not just a tough challenge from the elite field in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI but also from Wack Wack’s fabled East layout, spruced up to championship condition for a true test of golf.
Jay Bayron, who nipped Tabuena in a playoff to snatch the ICTSI John Hay plum, and Elmer Salvador, the back-to-back winner at Aboitiz Invitational, are also tipped to contend for the top P450,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Others in the title chase are Rufino Bayron, Ferdie Aunzo, Anthony Fernando, Jerson Balasabas, Jhonnel Ababa, Jun Bernis, Marvin Dumandan, Zanie Boy Gialon, Rey Pagunsan, Gerald Rosales, Mars Pucay and Richard Sinfuego.