Sta. Rosa, Laguna—Guido Van der Valk pulled through in a gripping battle of nerves and wits that stretched up to the final hole, claiming the hotly disputed The Country Club Invitational crown by one with a par against Clyde Mondilla’s wet bogey at the TCC course here earlier.
Van der Valk blew a three-stroke lead with six holes left in calmer conditions as Mondilla charged back with back-to-back birdies from No. 13 but the Dutchman toughened up in the stretch, matching the Del Monte star’s pars in the next three before outwitting him on the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout’s tough finishing hole that had decided many an outcome in this highlight event of each Philippine Golf Tour season.
“That was stressful,” Van der Valk said after clinching it with a pressure-packed five-foot par putt on the 18th for a 75 and a seven-over 295 total.
But it was all worth the stress and tension as he did not only join the elite circle of TCC Invitational winners and keep the foreign bets’ run in the event after Koreans Micah Shin and Kim Joo Jyung reigned the last two years. But he also pocketed the top purse of P1.5 million, more than his combined P1 million earnings in his first two victories.
The victory, the first in wire-to-wire fashion in 15 staging of the blue-ribbon event, thus kept Van der Valk’s amazing start in the PGT the past three seasons. He scored his maiden win at Eagle Ridge, the kickoff leg of the 2018 circuit, and ruled the Club Filipino de Cebu, the first official event of the tour’s milestone 10th season after the TCC Invitational last year.
“It was all consistency. I was leading the whole time – had a good start in the first two rounds and I tried to hang on from there as good as I could,” said Van der Valk. “Even without the wind, it was so stressful to play this course. Every hole, there is really something that makes it difficult. I was just lucky to hold on.”
It was a sorry setback for Mondilla, who had appeared headed for a big finish after that birdie-birdie blast to tie but failed to get it through the treacherous closing hole for the second straight day and dumped his approach shot into the water. He wound up with a bogey and settled for a 74 for a 296 worth P700,000 in a follow-up to his earnings of $17,500 after ruling the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic of PGT Asia last January.
Staying ahead by two after 54 holes, the Lelystad, the Netherlands native cracked under early pressure and bogeyed two of the first six holes, enabling Mondilla to draw level with a birdie on No. 7.
But Van der Valk recovered and pounced on his rival’s bogeys in the next two, including a two-shot swing on the ninth with a birdie to regain a three-stroke lead at the turn. After both bogeyed the 10th, however, Mondilla cashed in on his own two-shot swing on No. 13 (birdie-bogey) then birdied the next to force a tie again at seven-over overall, setting the stage for the thrilling finish.
It was practically a mano-a-mano in the final round of the P5 million event, held to honor the memory of ICTSI founder Don Pocholo Razon, as Jay Bayron, Tony Lascuña and Rupert Zaragosa, the other contenders after three rounds, all bowed out with over-par scores, enabling Reymon Jaraula to snatch third place at 301 with one of the day’s two-best scores of 72 worth P400,000.
Michael Bibat wound up fourth at 306 after a 74 and received P300,000 while Lascuna, winner here in 2004, and Zaragosa both skied to 79s and dropped to joint fifth at 305 with Zanieboy Gialon (74), Spain’s Marcos Pastor (76) and Keanu Jahns (77). Each got P186,000.
Bayron limped with six bogeys and two double bogeys for a birdie-less 82 and tumbled to 10th at 306, just a stroke ahead of 2013 winner and legend Frankie Miñoza, who closed out with a gutsy 73.