With a commanding lead, Clyde Mondilla adjusted his aggressive playing style to a more restrained approach, securing his first championship in three years. He won the ICTSI Forest Hills Classic crown by five strokes over Angelo Que and Dino Villanueva, despite shooting a 72 at the Nicklaus course in Antipolo City on Friday.
The victory was virtually his after his impressive 11-under 60 on Tuesday, followed by solid performances of 66 and 68 in the next two days, giving him a six-stroke advantage heading into the final round of the P2 million championship.
Mondilla didn’t need a spectacular finish to cap off his remarkable four-day campaign in the seventh leg of the Philippine Golf Tour. In fact, he struggled with his first over-par round on a course he had dominated and against a field he had outplayed.
However, it didn’t matter much as the Del Monte ace switched to a more conservative approach after birdying the first two holes and bogeying three of the next four. He played the remaining holes for a pair of 36s, resulting in a total score of 18-under 266, beating Que, who had a scorching 64 on Thursday but could only manage a par 71, and the late-surging Villanueva, who finished with back-to-back 66s, by five strokes.
“I played it safe on the back nine since holes 10, 11, and 12 are quite tricky. But it was only after my drive on the 17th hole that I knew the victory was mine,” said Mondilla, who is also expecting his second child next month. “I feel truly blessed.”
Despite experiencing some pressure after the string of bogeys, Mondilla acknowledged his ability to handle it with a run of pars. He earned a prize of P350,000, most of which he plans to use for an Asian Development Tour campaign in Thailand next month, while Que and Villanueva, who tied with a score of 271, shared the combined second and third prizes of P360,000.
While the margin of victory was smaller compared to Rupert Zaragosa’s nine-stroke win in the Iloilo stop of the Philippine Golf Tour, sponsored by ICTSI, Mondilla’s dominant performance highlighted his talent and skills as a multi-titled player. After enduring a slump following his victory in the most crowded playoff cast in PGT history at Pradera Verde in 2020, where he rallied from six shots down to earn a spot in sudden death, the drought only fueled Mondilla’s hunger and determination. He reached his desired form with a joint runner-up finish with Lloyd Go in the PGT Valley Golf Challenge, won by Reymon Jaraula, two weeks ago.
In his final round, Mondilla started with back-to-back birdies. However, those opening holes didn’t indicate what was to come, especially on a course that could be forgiving in one stretch and challenging in the next. After extending his lead to eight strokes, Mondilla dropped three shots in the next four holes and made the turn with a one-over 36. Que, on the other hand, experienced a rollercoaster of bogeys and birdies, but a birdie on the 12th hole brought him within four strokes, igniting hopes of another strong finish reminiscent of his comeback victory against Jay Bayron and Tony Lascuna in the inaugural Anvaya Cove Invitational in 2015, where he overcame a six-shot deficit.
However, Que’s chances were dashed with a costly bogey on the 14th hole, allowing Mondilla to cruise to victory.
Albin Engino gunned down an eagle on No. 6 but made two double bogeys and four bogeys against three birdies to fall to fourth at 276 after a 74 and took home P103,000, while Lascuna fired a 70 and shared fifth place with Guido van der Valk, carded a 72, at 277.
Keanu Jahns shot a 72 for seventh at 281, Japanese Atsushi Ueda pooled a 282 for eighth, also after a 72, while Elee Bisera put in a 73 to tie Zaragosa, who made a 75, at 283.
Junior PGT campaigner Miko Granada, meanwhile, wound up with a second straight 76 and tied for 22nd at 293, securing the low amateur honors as early as Wednesday after emerging the lone player from the ranks to advance.
Meanwhile, the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit will take a two-month break and will resume in September with two legs in Mindanao.