Guido Van der Valk capped a month-long run of fine form with a victory at the P2.5 million ICTSI Eagle Ridge Challenge yesterday, beating Jay Bayron and American Nicolas Paez by three in a windy stretch run duel to claim his maiden win on the Philippine Golf Tour in Gen. Trias, Cavite.
Van der Valk lost a two-shot lead early but outduelled Bayron in a pressure-packed finish, winning it all despite a four-over 76 and finally ending years of near-misses in the local circuit sponsored by ICTSI, including a playoff setback to Tony Lascuña in Bacolod in 2016.
But two strong third place efforts in The Country Club Invitational and the Solaire Philippine Open, both at the tough TCC course, the last four weeks have lined up the Manila-based shotmaker from Lelystad, the Netherlands, for this breakthrough triumph he had long wished and worked for.
“It’s been a long wait and I don’t know what to say,” said the amiable 38-year-old Van der Valk, savoring the sweet taste of a first PGT win worth P450,000 after a four-over 292 total.
While he credited his third round surge to steady putting, the new champion said his iron play won it for him although he admitted he only gained confidence after Bayron fumbled with the first of his four bogeys on No. 14.
“I was only able to take control after I made it in two on No. 15 and Jay missed the green,” said Van der Valk, who also credited his Filipina wife’s (Loradelle) all-support since he joined the local circuit at Splendido in 2013.
The 38-year-old Van der Valk, who had three previous wins, including two back home, actually closed out with a birdie-less round marred by four bogeys. But clutch pars in the stretch proved enough to clinch it as Bayron faded with a bogey-riddled windup at the wind-raked Faldo course.
Two down after 54 holes, Bayron tied Van der Valk twice, the last on No. 13. But the veteran Filipino campaigner, who last won twice in 2016, uncharacteristically collapsed with four straight bogeys, enabling the Dutchman to turn what had appeared to be a thriller of a finish into a runaway triumph.
Bayron ended up with a 77 and tied Paez, who closed out with a 75, at 295 for second in the kickoff leg of this year’s PGT organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. They split the combined P500,000 prize.
It was a sorry foldup for Bayron, who pounced on Van der Valk’s bogey on the third hole and birdied the next to draw level. He fell behind again with a bogey on the seventh but pulled even when Van der Valk bogeyed No. 13.
But just when it seemed the ending would duplicate that of Miguel Tabuena’s thrilling playoff victory over Thai Prom Meesawat at the Phl Open last week, Van der Valk ran away with his long-awaited triumph with a run of pars as Bayron faltered in one of his worst finishes in years.
Paez, four behind Van der Valk at the start of the round, tried to press his charge with two birdies in the first five holes in an earlier flight. But he failed to sustain his attack, making three bogeys and fumbling with a double-bogey to hobble with a three-over card.
Joenard Rates carded a second 73 to finish fourth at 296 worth P140,000 while Korean Park Jun Hyeok matched par 72, which proved to be the day’s best in wicked condition, for fifth at 297 worth P110,000 followed by Mhark Fernando (76) and Japanese Toru Nakajima (74), who tied for sixth at 299, and Edward Reyes (78) and Omar Dungca, Richard Sinfuego and Lascuña, who all turned in 79s for 300s and joint eighth 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.