TARLAC – James Ryan Lam's nine-year quest for a championship ended with a resounding four-stroke victory over American Josh Salah in the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club on Friday.
Lam outduelled erstwhile co-leaders Jobim Carlos and Aussie Jack Sullivan with two birdies in the first five holes then fended off the charge of a slew of rivals behind a closing four-under par 68 in the sixth leg of the second season of Philippine Golf Tour Asia put up by ICTSI.
“I tried to take control of my game and avoid getting into trouble. That was my game plan and it paid off,” said Lam, who missed the cut in the first three legs of this year’s PGT Asia but worked on his game and turned in a fifth place finish at Forest Hills last July then placed sixth at Aboitiz last month.
He stood at joint 10th after an opening 70, gained a share of sixth with a 69 Wednesday, then joined Carlos and Sullivan at the helm with a brilliant 67 on Thursday for a 72-hole total of 14-under 274 worth $17,500.
“At last I won. This is great and I couldn’t ask for more,” said the 30-year-old shotmaker, who toiled for nine years on the local circuit marked by four runner-up finishes, including one to American Nicolas Paez at PGT Del Monte last June.
He anchored his final round romp on exceptional putting, saving pars 10 times, including four straight from No. 14. He finished with a tournament-best 21 putts.
Salah hit a late eagle to fire a 70 and snatch runner-up honors at 278 worth $11,500 while Jhonnel Ababa and Ira Alido rallied with a pair of 68s to tie Carlos, who wobbled with a 73, at third with 279. Each received $5,666.
“I struggled early and failed to gather my thoughts,” said Carlos, this year’s PGT Order of Merit winner, who bogeyed two of the first five holes and never recovered. “But it was really meant for him.”
Salvador, who led in the first round of the $100,000 event sponsored by ICTSI with a 65, blew it all at the back with three bogeys, finishing with a 74 for joint sixth at 281 with last year’s champion Justin Quiban, who rallied with a 67, Charles Hong, who shot a 68, and Seung Jae Mae of the US, who carded a 70. Each took home $2,925.