CHARLES Hong outduelled Richard Sinfuego in a virtual backside shootout and went on to clinch his breakthrough crown in the Pilipinas Golf Tournament Inc. circuit via a sudden death on Friday at the Pueblo layout in Cagayan de Oro City.
A sophomore pro, Hong had a fiery finish of seven-under 65 and kept his sizzling form in the playoff by nearly coming up with a pitch-in birdie to beat Sinfuego in the P1 millon ICTSI Pueblo de Oro Championship.
Sinfuego also closed out with a solid 67, but blew his chance with an errant second shot for bogey during the playoff.
Both Hong and Sinfuego finished with eight-under 208s.
The win was worth P200,000 for the 24-year-old Hong, whose best finish in the season was sixth during the ICTSI Sherwood Hills.
Hong likewise had just one missed cut in the first 10 legs of this year’s circuit.
“This win means so much for my career,” said Hong. “Everyone is always looking forward to his first win.”
It was a fitting ending to an explosive windup by the winning coach of Team South in the country’s version of the Ryder Cup duel last June, who trailed Sinfuego by two after 36 holes. He later fell behind by four with a bogey on No. 1 coupled by Sinfuego’s birdie.
But Hong suddenly went hot by coming up with a cluster of birdies – four – from No. 5 to tie Sinfuego, but reeled back again with another bogey on the ninth.
Rufino Bayron, the third man in the championship flight, stayed within one during that stretch, even after Hong opened the backside with another birdie to tie again.
But Bayron stepped aside when Hong and Sinfuego slugged it out in a thrilling shootout the last eight holes.