Power-hitting Clyde Mondilla crowned himself the new ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion in style, sweeping the last two legs of the circuit, including the P3 million The Players Championship at the Summit Point Golf Club in Lipa City Batangas on Friday.
But in one stretch, Jerson Balasabas looked all set to spoil Mondilla’s coronation as he charged back from six strokes down in a flight ahead with a scorching eagle-spiked start to draw level after six holes. But the Del Monte ace regained his nerve and countered with a late flourish, coming through with his own eagle-aided finish capped by four birdies in the last five holes to beat Balasabas by three.
Mondilla closed out the way he opened his title drive in this final PGT leg – with a five-under 67 for a winning 17-under 271. Two weeks after pocketing $17,500 for topping the ICTSI Riviera Classic of the PGT Asia Tour, he banked another P550,000 which he received from the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. executive director Narlene Soriano during awards rites.
“I’m so happy, this is a sweet victory and I couldn’t ask for more,” said Mondilla, who also won back-to-back at Manila Southwoods and Villamor last May to complete a four-leg romp in the ninth season of the country’s premier circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Balasabas complemented his hot 31 start with a solid finish, a bogey-free backside 33 for a tournament-best eight-under 64 but could only settle for second at 274 worth P370,000 as Mondilla recovered his touch – off the mound, on the fairway and on the greens – to hold off his rival, clinch the crown and formalize his claim on his first OOM title.
“I was so focused in all four days. When Jerson (Balasabas) made a charge, I didn’t panic since I knew I can handle the situation,” added Mondilla, who birdied the three par-5s and eagled the last on No. 9.
The 24-year-old Mondilla thus ended up with PGT winnings of P3,156,409, securing the coveted OOM crown in a bit easy fashion after rivals Tony Lascuña, Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que skipped the final leg to compete abroad.
He trailed unheralded Dino Villanueva by one in the opener, took charge with a 68 in the second round then hiked his lead to three over Jay Bayron with a third round 69 in the event hosted by Summit Point and backed by the Sta. Lucia and Leviste group.
But six shots behind in the final day, Balasabas made quite a stir in second-to-last flight, rattling off three birdies in the first four holes, gunning down an eagle on the next then birdying No. 6 from close range.
With Mondilla settling for a birdie-bogey card after six holes, Balasabas suddenly found himself sharing the lead, albeit in short-lived manner as he bogeyed No. 7 and fell by two again as Mondilla closed out the frontside with a bogey-eagle stint.
Balasabas actually forged another tie at 12-under on a two-shot swing on No. 10, which he birdied and which Mondilla bogeyed, but the latter birdied the next then ran off three straight birdies from No. 14 before holing out with another birdie against the former’s two birdies in the last six holes.
“He played really well and his short game was awesome,” said Balasabas.
Bayron, winner at Summit Point in 2015, pulled to within two with a 34 start but failed to match Mondilla’s fiery windup with a lone backside birdie for a 69. He wound up third at 276 and received P215,000.
Orlan Sumcad rallied with a 65 and snatched fourth place at 277 worth P165,000 while Keanu Jahns also fought back with a 67 to tie Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who carded a 70, at sixth at 278. Each got P122,500.
Villanueva rebounded from a third round 75 with a 69 and finished tied for seventh at 280 with Zanieboy Gialon and Albin Engino, who closed out with 67 and 68, respectively, while Aussie Nathan Park and Jobim Carlos each fired a 70 to share 10th place at 281 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.