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Tiebreaker Times


PGT: Rupert Zaragosa cruises to first-ever crown

Rupert Zaragosa finally broke through in big fashion, beating multi-titled Tony Lascuña by nine despite a fumbling finish for a 71 and nailing his first championship in the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge presented by MORE Power at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club on Saturday.

He was actually on course to posting a bigger winning margin, but he bogeyed the last three holes to ruin what had been a fine start of two frontside birdies. Still, his triumph was so unlike in last week’s furious battle at Marapara.

There, at least a mix of six aces figured in a heated chase to the finish until Ira Alido completed his stirring comeback from five shots down to nip Lascuna by one.

“I thank the Lord for finally giving me this win that I’ve been chasing for a long time,” said Zaragosa, whose previous best finish was joint second in a losing playoff stand against four others in the PGT Asia Pradera Verde leg ruled by Clyde Mondilla in 2020.

His runaway triumph matched Alido’s nine-shot romp in scoring his own Philippine Golf Tour breakthrough at Riviera-Langer in a bubble setup in 2020.

Armed with a near-insurmountable eight-stroke lead after 54 holes after a course-record-setting 63 Friday, Zaragosa even pulled away with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6. But after birdying No. 14 for the fourth straight day and regaining the stroke he dropped on the previous hole, he stumbled at the finish.

“There was pressure but I handled it in a good way – played it short and safe,” said Zaragosa, who pooled a 13-under 267 that included fiery rounds of 65-68-63, leading to his dominant title run worth P405,000 that more doubled his earnings in the past four years.

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“This win means so much to me because all my sacrifices and hard work have finally paid off,” added Zaragosa, who also cited his family and girlfriend (Pam Mariano)’s all-support along with those who continue to believe that he’s got what it takes to win in the big league dominated by long hitters.

But his rivals also floundered at the challenging closing holes of the par-70 layout as Lascuña yielded two strokes on No. 15 and dropped another shot on the next. But his 70 and a 276 enabled him to snatch runner-up honors from Guido van der Valk, whose double bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 likewise marred his closing stint.

The recent The Country Club Invitational champion wound up with a 73 for third at 277 while Jhonnel Ababa charged home with a 65 and Sean Ramos fired a 67 to share fourth place at 278.

Lascuña took home another P265,500 prize while van der Valk pocketed P153,000 in the second leg of this year’s circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Jerson Balasabas matched Zaragosa’s record-setting 63 Friday with his own version of a seven-under card he highlighted with an eagle on the par-5 14th as the former Philippine Masters champion seized solo sixth at 279.

Jay Bayron matched par 70 for seventh at 280 while Albin Engino and Richard Sinfuego tied for eighth at 281 after a pair of 71s and Michael Bibat ended up 10th with a 282 after a 73.

Next up for the PGT is the second Caliraya Springs Championship on April 18-21 in Cavinti, Laguna with Zaragosa looking forward to sustaining his form and reasserting his surprise domination of the stellar field.

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