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PGT: Ira Alido torches field with 64, edges Tony Lascuna by 1

Ira Alido did the unthinkable the way girlfriend Chanelle Avaricio essayed a highly improbable come-from-behind win in the women’s side of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Classic presented by MORE Power, charging back from five shots down to beat Tony Lascuña and Rupert Zaragosa by one for the hotly-disputed championship in Bacolod on Saturday.

So furious was the title chase that four tied for the lead after 54 holes of play at the tough Marapara layout and Alido rallied from joint 10th to make it a five-way logjam and Zaragoza joined the fray midway through the final round battle that turned the Philippine Golf Tour’s kickoff event this year into one of the most compelling in recent years.

But in a duel of nerves at the finish, the youngest among the chief contenders delivered, drilling in a pressure-packed curling 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole to fire 64 four flights ahead of the championship group. He then watched the seasoned Lascuña, who needed a birdie to force a playoff, mishit his approach shot on the par-5 18th and miss a 25-footer.

No sudden death ensued but the hour-long wait proved to be more telling for the 22-year-old Alido.

2023-PGT-Negros-Occidental-Alido-2 PGT: Ira Alido torches field with 64, edges Tony Lascuna by 1 Golf News PGT  - philippine sports news


“It was harder and tougher to wait than go to a playoff,” said Alido in jest. He totaled a 279 that included rounds of 69, 72, and 74, and snatched the top purse of P405,000.

Lascuña, who drew level with Alido in a long stretch at the back as the rest of the bidders fell off the heap one after the other, finished with a 70, enabling Zaragosa, in joint fifth at the start of the final round, to share runner-up honors at 280 after a 68. They split the combined prize of P418,500.

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Frankie Miñoza, who led the stellar field in the first two rounds, trailed early on but kept on pressing his bid with clutch putts and birdies. He, however, scrambled at the finish with two birdies against the same number of bogeys for a 71 and solo fourth at 281 worth P119,250.

Zanieboy Gialon, who tied Miñoza, Lascuña, and Guido Van der Valk at the helm after 54 holes, faded with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 and ended up with a 72 for joint fifth at 282 with Jhonnel Ababa, who shot a 69, while Van der Valk, who dominated the recent The Country Club Invitational, also lost steam in the stretch, reeling with a double-bogey on No. 14 and bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. He signed for a 73 and placed seventh at 283.

But how Alido did it – beating a crack list of the Tour’s big guns – spoke well of the caliber of the player who scored a career breakthrough at Riviera-Langer via a 9-shot romp over Jobim Carlos, Nilo Salahog, and Micahel Bibat in a bubble setup in 2020.

“The course played longer because of overnight rains but it didn’t really affect me because I was very close to the greens most of the time,” Alido said. “My goal was to shoot five-under after 9 holes. And while I shot only four-under, it was perfect enough to put myself in the hunt.”

Though his stints on the Asian Development Tour and the Asian Tour didn’t produce encouraging results, Alido kept on building up, working on every aspect of his game and staying hungry for success.

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“This win is a big confidence boost because I’ve been working really hard the past year and I haven’t been showing any good results,” said Alido. “But definitely now, it’s helping me prepare to play more events abroad.”

He later admitted to having gained extra motivation from Avaricio’s success the previous day.

“I was inspired by Chanelle’s victory. I told her that I’ll do my best to match her feat,” said Alido.

But while Avaricio needed a closing par-game to overhaul an eight-stroke deficit and edge Sarah Ababa by one for the women’s trophy last Friday, Alido had to squeeze out everything from his arsenal to put himself back into contention.

From way back, he worked his way up the chart with a pair of back-to-back birdies from Nos. 1 and 5, then sustained his birdie-binge on Nos. 12 and 15 to join the crowded leaderboard jammed with big names that kept on changing from the first hole on.

After a solid six-under card after 16 holes, Alido surged ahead by one over Lascuña but hit an errant tee shot on No. 17 and misread a par-putt from close range to enable the latter to draw level.

But Alido kept his nerves in check and came through with three superb shots to set up a birdie chance from 15 feet on the last hole and made the putt to go 1-up again.

Three flights behind, Lascuña fell by one with a costly bogey on the 17th but likewise produced a couple of solid shots on the 18th to keep his title chances. But he hit his approach shot from 150 yards short, the ball barely reaching the 18th green.

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In disgust, he kicked a tree nearby and then shook his head on his way to the green. After twice reading the line of his putt, Lascuna stroked it but the ball veered to the left of the hole, handing the championship to Alido.

That makes him the marked player when the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit heads to Iloilo next week for the last of the two-leg Visayan swing of the country’s premier tour.

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