• Shin scores breakthrough, rules CAT Open by 2

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    Tony Lascuna (left) raises Micah Shin’s hand in triumph after the young Korean-American edged the veteran campaigner by 2 to claim his maiden pro win. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Tony Lascuna (left) raises Micah Shin’s hand in triumph after the young Korean-American edged the veteran campaigner by 2 to claim his maiden pro win. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Micah Shin clinched his maiden pro win in style, beating current Order of Merit leader Tony Lascuña and a slew of local and foreign aces to capture the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open crown by two on a closing 70 at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Saturday.

    Not even a late double-bogey on the treacherous par-3 17th could shake off the lean 19-year-old Korean-American, a perennial contender since he joined the big league three years ago, who banked on his brilliant third round 65 to seize control and used a solid start in the final round to cushion the impact of a meltdown that has marred his past title campaigns in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.

    He did waver a bit with that 5 on the 17th but Shin had built enough lead – four with two holes to go – to be shattered and knocked off the leaderboard, closing out with a scrambling par on the par-4 18th to finish off Lascuña and fulfill a dream victory.

    Shin actually had to endure a 35-minute delay before claiming his maiden win as organizers had to stop play due to thunderstorms and lightning with the final group set to hole out on the 18th.

    But it was still worth the wait.

    “I couldn’t ask for more. It was a memorable Saturday for me. My effort and hard work didn’t go to waste,” said Shin, who wound up with a 14-under 274 on a run of under-par scores that included a 70 and a 69 and pocketed the top P450,000 purse.

    “I had no problem with my game, except on the 17th,” said Shin, who dumped his 4-iron tee shot into the water for that 5 but salvaged par on the final hole to win by 2.

    Lascuña, who said Friday that he would need to shoot a seven-under card to get a crack at a fifth crown in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., fell short of his bid but still produced a solid 34-34 to finish second at 276 worth P320,000.

    As in his past failed bids, he blamed his putting for the setback.

    “I missed a lot of birdie putts, specifically on Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and 16,” rued Lascuña, who however remained assured of the OOM lead as pursuers Bayron and Mondilla both failed to contend heading to the final leg of the circuit, backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha, at Wack Wack next week.

    Shin’s victory also lifted him from No. 13 to a spot among the top seven with P1,035,987 in earnings going to the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players Championship at Wack Wack beginning next Wednesday.

    Clyde Mondilla, a three-leg winner and the third man in the championship group, never figured in the mix with a double-bogey mishap on the tricky par-3 second but rallied with three birdies in the last 14 holes to save a 71 and finish tied for third at 280 with a charging Elmer Salvador, the Splendido Classic winner two weeks ago who shot a 69. Each received P160,000.

    Jay Bayron, who had targeted no less than the top spot here to grab the OOM lead from Lascuña, put in another 70 but had to settle for fifth at 281 and P110,000 while Zanieboy Gialon fought back with a 68 to tie Marvin Dumandan, who matched par 72, at sixth at 282.

    Australian Peter Stojanovski fired a 69 and took solo eighth at 283 while Dutch Guido Van der Valk also closed out with a 72 for joint ninth at 284 with Cassius Casas, who stumbled with a 73.

    Bracing for a big charge from the former three-time OOM champion and winner of four legs this year, Shin birdied the third hole from close range to go 5-up then battled Lascuña shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt the rest of the way, hitting four more birdies against a bogey until he stumbled with on No. 17.

    Lascuña came through with back-to-back birdies from No. 5 and gunned down two more birdies at the back but the 45-year-old campaigner just couldn’t shake off his young rival and stayed four shots behind until Shin dropped two strokes late in the round.

    But the ace Davaoeño shotmaker ran out of holes and settled for second although assured of the OOM lead as pursuers Bayron and Mondilla both failed to contend heading to the final leg of the circuit, backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha, at Wack Wack next week.

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