Justin Quiban finally broke through after two final round fold-ups, this time playing practically pressure-free with a huge lead before cruising to a three-stroke romp over Joenard Rates to capture the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open crown at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here in Tarlac on Saturday.
Not even two bogeys in the last four holes for a closing 72 could spoil the 21-year-old shotmaker’s claim at the coveted Philippine Golf Tour Asia title, banking on the five-shot cushion he had built through awesome driving, iron play and putting in the first 54 holes spiked by 66 and 67 in the middle rounds.
He parred the first 11 holes and remained four-up over Rates, then birdied Nos. 12 and 14 for good measure and still won by three despite dropping shots on Nos. 15 and 18 for a pair of 36s and a 275.
“I am lost for words,” said Quiban, who pocketed $17,500. “I did not expect to win this year and actually gave myself another year or two before breaking through.”
He flubbed at least seven birdie putts in the first 11 holes, enabling the rest, including Rates, to stay in the hunt.
“When I saw the leaderboard, I told myself to keep up with them, I need to knock down birdies,” added Quiban, who tapped in on No. 12 and rolled in a 15-footer on the 14th to settle the issue.
“I knew they won’t give it (title) to me on a silver platter. And I’m thankful my game held sway today (yesterday),” said Quiban, who also came through with a scrambling par on the 17th after a shaky drive that all but dashing whatever Rates had hoped for a comeback.
The diminutive Rates fought back from six down to within three after No. 16 but ran out of holes, settling for a 69 and a 278. He received $11,500.
True to his vow of a strong final round start, Clyde Mondilla birdied the opening hole but the reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion went on a roller-coaster ride, hitting three more birdies but stumbling with the same number of bogeys. He wound up with a 71 for a 279, ending up tied at third with Jay Bayron, who rallied with a 66, and Jhonnel Ababa and Swede Oskar Arvidsson, who both carded 69s.
Thai Natchanon Varapornkittirat shot a 70 and shared seventh place with Elmer Salvador, who turned in a 71, at 281, while Kris Etter fired a 68 and tied Marvin Dumandan and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who carded identical 69s, at ninth at 282.
The victory thus made Quiban the fifth winner of the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Piliipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. after Miguel Tabuena (Southwoods), Rene Menor (Splendido), Mondilla (Riviera) and Tony Lascuña (Wack Wack).
At 21, the former amateur hotshot also became one of the youngest winners in the local circuit with the runaway triumph more than made up for his heartbreakers at Southwoods (tied for fifth) and Wack Wack (joint sixth) where he figured in the title chase only to crumble in the pressure-packed stage.
This time, there was no heartaches, only delight and thrill for joining the elite circle of PGTA winners at this early stage of his pro career.
Other backers of the event were Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.