Luisita PAL champ anew

By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 24 2014 09:15 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2014 05:15 PM

BACOLOD , Philippines – Luisita sustained its third round charge with a gutsy closing 147, foiling the four-peat-seeking Canlubang team by two and wresting the 28th Philippine Airlines Seniors Interclub crown at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club here yesterday.

Playing the crucial fourth round at the site of their three previous victories, the Luisita bets, behind their two homegrown talents, outdueled the Sugar Barons, who wound up with a 143, as they completed their fightback from nine points down halfway through with a two-point victory, 564-562.

The Luisita Sweeties’ return to the top took four years, their last triumph also pulled off at the par-70 Marapara course in Barangay Bata here. Dating back to 2002, Luisita had reigned in four of the last five editions of the annual event at NOGCC and the Bacolod Golf and Country Club, missing out on the crown only in 2008 when Cangolf won.

“We’re happy because we won again. Even if this comes every four years,” said Francis Gaston.

It helped that Gaston, who hails from nearby Silay, and Richie Garcia, a Bacolodnon, had tons of experience at Marapara. Gaston fired 51, equivalent to three-over 73, to lead the team while Bong Sison and Garcia added 50 and 46, respectively, to complete the feat.

“Richie and I are very familiar with the course. More or less, it elevated our ranking in the team and we’re able to match them (Canlubang),” said Gaston.

But it was Sison who actually provided the big lift in Luisita’s final assault. Sison was the first man off the clubhouse and he battled Canlubang top gun Rolly Viray shot for shot. They eventually cancelled each other out with identical scores of 50, giving Luisita’s second and third men, Gaston and Garcia, a chance to make their move.

Garcia went two up against Mari Hechanova, 46 versus 44, to tie it all up, then Gaston outscored reigning national seniors champ Ben Avena, 51-49, to virtually seal it for Luisita.

“The key was Bong (Sison). He was able to match (Canlubang’s top gun) Rolly (Viray),” said Gaston.

Luisita, which rallied to within two with a 140 in the third round, won its 15th title overall, thus foiling Cangolf’s four-peat bid.

“They (Luisita) played really well (in the final round),” said Cangolf team captain Tony Olives.

Canlubang built a nine-point lead halfway through but like in the past, the Sugar Barons failed to pull it off at the NOGCC and Bacolod Golf and Country Club-Binitin.

“Hindi kami manalo dito (We couldn’t seem to win in Bacolod), “said Canlubang exec Luigi Yulo, whose team had lost two of three editions in the City of Smiles and would have already scored a nine-peat, if not for the setbacks here.

Luisita got a reprieve in its wire-to-wire duel with Canlubang in the first flight, where Viray called the attention of the tournament committee on an alleged infraction committed by Sison on No. 10.

Sison birdied the par-4 hole but Viray felt the former violated rules when he picked up the ball, which was only half-submerged, without moving the pin.

It would have merited a four-point penalty on Luisita but the committee ruled in favor of Sison, who maintained it was already holed out, preserving his score and the eventual victory for Luisita.

Manila Golf finished third after pooling 536 points. OV Espiritu carded 52 while Jaime Fernandez and Alex Prieto scored 45 and 43, respectively, as Manila Golf dislodged Orchard (535). Cebu Country Club failed to make headway in spite of the tournament-best 55 from Montito Garcia and wound up No. 5 with 529.

Home bets NOGCC-Marapara ruled the Founders division, beating Alta Vista by three, 511-508. Lito Ong paced the champions with 42 and was backstopped by Jude Doctora’s 41 and Chito Garcia’s 36.

Bacolod Golf dominated the Sportswriters category with a final round 112 and 434 overall while Sienna Plantation ran away with the Friendship diadem with 130 and a winning 318 aggregate.