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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ababa pulls thru in sudden death

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Davao—Jhonnel Ababa canned in two pressure-packed birdies, the first forcing a playoff and the other clinching the hotly disputed championship over Guido van der Valk in a statement-making win at the ICTSI Apo Golf Classic here Friday.

Bracing for a grind-out battle at Apo, the local favorite got more than he had expected, wavering in the closing stages of regulation play after controlling it with a run of pars as third round leader Kristoffer Arevalo faltered with a double bogey start. Ababa capitalized on his consistent performance to reclaim the lead he had held halfway through the 72-hole championship.

But down by one with one hole to go and with the hometown crowd rallying behind him, he rose to the challenge, birdying the 72nd hole to salvage a 74 and send his high-noon duel with the resilient Dutchman, who carded a 73, to a sudden death.

From the fairway bunker on the first extra hole, the par-4 No. 9, he hit his approach to 16 feet above the cup and confidently stroked his way to victory on a 293 total worth P450,000.

“Guido putted first, and I saw his line. Even before I reached the middle of my putt, I already knew it was going in,” said Ababa, pumping his fist as the ball followed the line and disappeared into the cup.

Van der Valk earlier missed his bid from 22 feet.

It was so unlike Ababa’s stance on par-5 No. 18. Facing a relatively short match-tying putt from three feet, he had to pause and re-read the line of his putt.

“I just wanted to make sure that it would drop,” said Ababa. “It’s a blessing.”

Ababa’s triumph not only affirmed his prowess on the course but also mirrored the success of his family in the kickoff leg of this year’s 10-leg PGT, with cousin Sarah Ababa bagging the ladies crown in come-from-behind fashion Thursday.

The win also holds special significance for Ababa, who has harbored aspirations of competing internationally but faced obstacles due to lack of sponsorship. With his triumph, Ababa has not only cemented his place among the elite in Philippine golf but has also signaled his readiness to take on the global stage.

His journey to victory also served as a testament to his talent, perseverance and dedication to the sport, inspiring aspiring golfers and earning him the admiration of fans and peers alike.

Van der Valk, meanwhile, pocketed P295,000 while Tony Lascuña carded a 73 to tie fellow Davaoeño Jay Bayron, who shot a 74, at 294. Each received P151,250.

Van der Valk pounced on Ababa’s bogey-bogey-double bogey skid from No. 15 to grab the lead at five-over total with a run of pars, but failed to match the latter’s closing birdie, setting the stage for sudden death.

Rookie pro Ryan Monsalve rallied with a 70 to snare solo fifth at 295 and pocketed P107,500, while Korean Gwon Minwook and Collin Wheeler of the US shared sixth place at 296 and the combined P177,500 prize.

Russel Bautista also fought back with a 70 to finish joint eighth at 297 with Japanese Toru Nakajima and Zanieboy Gialon, who shot 71 and 75, respectively.

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