BACOLOD, Philippines – As they waited for the last players to come in, members of the Orchard team had gathered under the shade of a mahogany tree guarding the 18th green, ready to celebrate.
They had the title in the bag. And when club champion Ian Arcilla made the last putt, they all charged onto the green, pumping their fists, whooping it up in front of photographers.
It was the first Philippine Airlines Interclub men’s title for Orchard, which led from start to finish at the Binitin and Marapara courses here.
It was a runaway victory.
Despite a third-round threat from Alabang, the Cavite-based squad won with plenty to spare yesterday, pooling together 126 points for a four-day total of 477.
As expected, Orchard’s big guns delivered on yet another hot and windy day. Pro-bound John Kier Abdon hit 34 points, Stephen King Stehmeier 33 and Alan August Stehmeier 30. Jan Phillipe de Claro and Arcilla had identical 29s.
Alabang, which stood 10 points behind entering the final day, quickly lost grip of the battle and carded 118 points to finish second with 459 points, 18 points off.
Orchard ruled the Founders Cup division last year in Cebu, and moved up to the Championship division this year, hoping for the best.
“We aimed for this after we won the Founders title last year,” said Orchard non-playing team captain Francis Montallana after the celebration.
“There were doubts if we can really play with the big boys. But we started strong and finished even stronger. We’re very happy,” he added.
Del Monte, the 2011 champion and a threat wherever it goes, came in third with a 118 and a 452 total. For a while it looked ready to overtake Alabang for second.
Cebu Country Club, which came here seeking a third straight championship, got lost along the way, trailing early on.
They finished miles away with a 114 and 437 total.
Alabang drew 33 points from Justin Quiban, 32 from Jama Reyes, 28 from Basti Lorenzo and 25 from Gabriel Manotoc. Ramon Garcia III did not count with his 23.
The 22-year-old Abdon will turn pro soon and will carry this victory with him. He had a lone birdie yesterday against three bogeys.
Orchard got off to a hot start when Montallana fielded Abdon and Sangil together in the first round.
“I was asked why we did that but we thought we needed a good start. Arangkada muna bago kami mag-balance ng players,” said Montallana.
It worked for Orchard.
Cebu Country Club drew most of the attention heading into this year’s tournament but couldn’t live up to expectations.
“The courses just didn’t suit the eyes of our players. And it was negative all the way. Parang kontra pelo yung courses,” said Cebu CC general manager Jeric Hechanova.
But it’s just another year for the back-to-back champions.
“Looking forward, I think we will do better next year (in Cagayan de Oro),” Hechanova added.
In the Founders division, Negros Occidental won with ease with its 452 total, followed by Manila Southwoods at 433, Wack Wack at 404, Valley Golf at 402 and Riviera at 397. Eagle Ridge topped the Sportswriters division at 384, towing Lumbia at 377, Club Filipino at 376, Bacolod at 360 and Davao City at 358.
Fil-Am Hawaii topped the Friendship division with 319. Finishing next were Victorias Golf 313, South Cotabato 312, Cotabato Golf 302, Pearl Kai Hawaii 300 and Australia-Asian Golf 287.
This year’s Interclub is being co-sponsored by CrossOver with Boeing, Philippines Graphic, Stargate Media (People Asia) and Rogue as corporate backers. Also lending support are Airbus, Business Mirror, One Mega Group (Travel Now), Philippine Broadcasting Corp., Manila Broadcasting Corp.and Petron.
This year is Orchard’s year.