ANTIPOLO, Philippines – Tony Lascuña marked his return to the Philippine Golf Tour in smashing fashion, pulling off a masterstroke of a win over an elite field in the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge – a seven-shot romp over Jhonnel Ababa with a closing eagle-spiked 69 at the Valley Golf Club here yesterday.
Lascuña, toughened up by his stint on the Asian Tour the last three weeks, birdied two of the last three holes from long range to highlight his 34-35 card and cap his domination of the P2 million, four-day championship with a run of under-par rounds that included an opening 69 and back-to-back 67s for a 16-under 272 total.
Not even a bogey on the opening hole could slow down the reigning back-to-back PGT Order of Merit champion and spur Ababa and Cassius Casas to launch their respective charges as Lascuña birdied No. 3 from four feet then came through with a pitch-in eagle from 60 yards on the par-5 No. 5.
He dropped another stroke on No. 8 but hit back-to-back birdies from No. 11 to be where he had started – ahead by seven.
It was cruise control from there.
"With a seven-shot lead, I knew it would be tough to beat so I played pressure-free all throughout," said Lascuña after pocketing the top P360,000 purse that hiked his earnings to P1,245,000, pulling away again in the OOM race after Charles Hong closed to within P39,000 after ruling the rich Sherwood Hills Classic two weeks ago.
The victory, which came after he placed fourth at Splendido and finished second at John Hay before vying in the Asian Tour, also augured well for Lascuña’s bid in the $300,000 Philippine Open crown set next week at Wack Wack’s East Course.
"This is a good motivation for the Phl Open but it would be tough with a slew of talented foreign and local players in the fold," said Lascuña, who also cited the luck his wife Cheryl Alferez brings.
“She’s five months pregnant with our second child and they really bring good luck to my games with good results since the start of the year,” said Lascuña, who earned P1 million for finishing joint 11th in last week’s The Championship in Singapore.
Ababa moved to within five with a birdie on No. 10 but fell back by seven again after Lascuña birdied Nos. 11 and 12 inside 10 feet with the former failing to cash in on the latter’s bogey-bogey mishap from No. 14 with a closing 35 for a similar 69. He wound up with a 279 and took home P250,000.
Casas, who led in the first round with a 68, wavered with bogeys in the last two holes and hobbled with a 73, settling for third at 283 worth P140,000 while Miguel Tabuena fired a 70 to salvage joint fourth with Mars Pucay, who carded a 71, at 285. Each got P102,000.
Eric Mina shot a 70 and ended up sixth at 286 worth P78,000, while Ferdie Aunzo rallied with a 70 to share seventh place with Albin Engino and Elmer Saban, who matched par 72s, and Micah Shin, who sputtered with a 75, at 287s worth P54,500 each.
The other backers of the event, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., were Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers, which also offers P50,000 for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.