Thai bags ICTSI Orchard crown in wild finish

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Turned from awesome to awful at the finish but had enough cushion – seven strokes in the last two holes – to salvage a one-stroke victory over Clyde Mondilla with a 71 in a bizarre ending in the ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship at the Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Saturday.

What appeared to be a cruise after a solid start nearly turned out to be a nightmarish ending for Charoenkul, who surged ahead by six with a brilliant 31 at the front and went 7-up with a birdie on the 16th, only to crawl with two double-bogey mishaps on wayward shots to close out a premier $60,000 championship sponsored by ICTSI.

Thai Gunn Charoenkul revels after surviving a latehole meltdown to barely win the ICTSI Orchard Championship. PHOTO BY BOB DUNGO JR.

But the huge lead proved too much for Mondilla to overcome as the Filipino ace lost by one despite gaining on a huge six-shot swing on his own version of a birdie-birdie windup inside 10 feet for a 72.

Charoenkul, who rebounded from an opening 75 with 68 and 67 in the next two rounds, wound up with a seven-under 281 aggregate and nailed his first triumph worth $10,500 on the Philippine Golf Tour.


“I’m happy because all my effort and sacrifices for four days didn’t go to waste,” said Charoenkul, who after a flawless start went the way no one would ever dare to in the final holes of a big tournament – hazards, roughs and bunkers.

But he endured those double bogeys and watched Mondilla run out of holes to become the first Thai to win at Orchard.

“This is a big boost as I head to Thailand Open this week,” said the 25-year-old touring pro from Phanga Nga in south of Bangkok.

Mondilla, tied with the Thai one shot behind third round leader Jay Bayron at the start of the final round, struggled early with a 37 and fell behind by seven with a fourth straight bogey on the difficult No. 14.

“He (Charoenkul) played well except in the last two holes. He deserved the win,” said Mondilla, whose runner-up effort worth $6,900 snapped a string of so-so finishes in the early going of the PGT season.

Another Thai Kasidit Lepkurte eagled the par-5 18th to fire a 68 and came from out of nowhere to tie Elmer Salvador, who bounced back from a 75 with a similar 68, at third at 283 while Bayron limped with a 75 and dropped to joint fifth at 284 with Thai Panuwat Muenlek and American William Cannon, who shot identical 70s.

Micah Shin and Thai Jakraphan Premsirigorn both fired 67s and tied American John Catlin, who carded a 71, at eighth at 286 in the second of a four-leg month-long Philippine Golf Tour swing organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.

Up next is the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship on May 17-20 in Carmona, Cavite before the ICTSI Philippine Masters’ revival on May 24-27 at the Villamor Golf Club.

Jhonnel Ababa ended up 11th at 287 after a 71 while Tony Lascuña groped for a 73 and wound up tied at 12th with Finland’s Teemu Putkonen, who shot a 69, at even 288.

Five birdies in a bogey-free stint at the front, coupled with Mondilla’s 37 and Bayron’s 38, sent Charoenkul way out in front and the Asian Tour campaigner kept his huge lead despite a run of pars to start his backside ride. He did fumble with a bogey on a three-putt miscue on No. 15 but recovered the stroke with a birdie from short range on the next.

As Bayron failed to recover and dropped out of sight with bogeys on Nos. 13 and 15, Mondilla likewise slipped farther back with a fourth straight bogey on the difficult 14th but pounced on Charoenkul’s errant drives, wayward approach shots and poor putting in the last two holes to earn a crack at the crown.

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