Kim escapes, Hwang cruises in PH Am Open

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Tom Kim and Hwang Min-jeong (center) hold the huge Philippine Amateur Open Championship trophy after completing a Korean sweep of the country’s premier event at the Riviera Golf and Country Club yesterday. With them are (from left) Malaysia Golf Association’s Datu Zulkifli, NGAP president Caloy Coscolluela. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tom Kim survived a wobbly finish as he watched Luis Castro flub a pressure-packed birdie putt from five feet on the final hole to hack out a one-stroke victory with a one-over 73 in the Philippine Amateur Open Championship at Riviera Golf and Country Club in Silang, Cavite on Sunday.

But while the men’s crown was decided on the last hole and last putt, the women’s tiara was secured as early as the third round with Hwang Min-jeong completing her dominant run by posting a whopping winning record of 16 strokes over fellow Korean Kim Hee Ji despite a closing 73 in the country premier championship sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, hosted by the Riviera Golf Club, Inc. and backed by One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites.

Kim actually also headed for a romp in men’s play after storming to a four-shot lead over Rupert Zaragosa and five ahead of Castro after 54 holes. But the reigning Phl Junior champion stumbled at the finish at the frontside of the Couples layout, bogeying two of the last three that marred his 73.

In contrast, Castro, who matched Kim’s 35 start at the back, came through with birdies on Nos. 1 and 6 and threatened to within one. The first round co-leader then hit a superb approach shot to within a club length on No. 9 and stared at a possible playoff duel with the 15-year-old Korean, who three-putted the final hole.


But Castro cracked under pressure, pulling his putt short to the left and enabling Kim to escape with the victory on a 285 aggregate that included rounds of 73, 68 and 71.

A crest-fallen Castro finished with a 69 and settled for runner-up with a 286 while Weiwei Gao matched par 72 for third at 291 followed by Zaragosa (76-292), Singapore’s Gregory Foo (71-293), Abdul Hadi, also of Singapore (71-294), Paolo Wong (72-296), and American Chris Yeom (70) and Gen Nagai (74), who tied for eighth at 297, and Carl Corpus (75) and Thai Nopparat Panichphon (75), who shared 10th place at 298.

Hwang, meanwhile, turned the final round into a virtual practice session and still came out with a new mark despite turning in her first over par round of 36-37 after 67-69-68 in the 72-hole championship held as part of the PLDT National Amateur Golf Tour and organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

She wound up with an 11-under 277, adding the crown to her growing list of victories that included a pro title in 2016 at Mt. Malarayat.

Kim Hee Ji shot a 70 and ended up second at 293 while Lee Ji Hyeon carded a 73 and tied Lois Go, who fumbled with a 79, at third at 294.

Harmie Constantino, winner in 2016, finally broke par with a 69 but could only place fifth at 298 followed by Mikha Fortuna (73-302), Clare Legaspi (76-303), Thai Tunrada Piddon (73-305), reigning Philippine Ladies Open champion Bianca Pagdanganan (75-308) and Sofia Legaspi (74-310).

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