CALATAGAN, Batangas – Mhark Fernando snapped a year-long victory drought on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, routing the field with a solid closing three-under 69 to rule the P1 million Calatagan Challenge Friday.
Fernando won the title with a five-shot romp off Rufino Bayron on a course where he honed his game as an amateur as part of Tommy Manotoc's training program for former caddies.
Not even a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 14 could stop Fernando from annexing his first victory since beating Juvic Pagunsan for the ICTSI Del Monte crown last year.
The former national champion had built enough cushion with a fiery five-under card after 13 holes to post the runaway victory.
Surprise second day leader Korean amateur Hwang Kang Yul failed to withstand the pressure and fell back with a double-bogey start.
Fernando, who trailed Hwang by one before the final round, birdied two of the first four holes to wrest control and pulled away with three birdies in the first four holes at the back of the Calatagan layout he calls home.
He wound up with a four-under 212 and took the top P200,000 purse in the 54-hole tournament serving as the 13th leg of the 15-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I just had a pretty solid game from tee to green, especially my putting,” said Fernando, who made just 24 putts.
Bayron, the first day leader also chasing his first victory after humbling the pros as an amateur at Valley Golf four years ago, failed to match Fernando’s hot start and reeled back with a bogey on No. 5.
He fell by three at the turn with a 37 and never got the chance to strike back with a couple of missed birdie putts and finished with a 74 for second at one-over 217. He received P120,000.
Jhonnel Ababa, another former regular at Calatagan, shot a 70 but ran out of holes in his comeback bid, settling for third at 218 in a tie with Richard Sinfuego, who fired a 69, and Christopher delos Santos, who matched par 72. They shared the combined purse of P155,000 put up by the sponsoring ICTSI.
Zanie Boy Gialon shot the tournament’s best-score of six-under 66, a bogey-free round that sent the former amateur hotshot from out of nowhere after a pair of 77s for a share of sixth with Marvin Dumandan (73), and Elmer Sallvador (71) at 220.
Hwang, who showed a lot of promise when he surged ahead of the field with 67 and 75 in harsh condition, never recovered from a 7 start at the par-5 opening hole, making two more double bogeys and four bogeys against three birdies for a seven-over 79.
The 19-year-old Riviera bet tumbled down to joint ninth at 221 with Charles Hong, winner of ICTSI Pueblo de Oro, who had a 73.
Pagunsan finally found his range and shot a 69 after a 72 and 82 but the reigning Asian Tour and ICTSI PGT No. 1 could only turn a joint 12th place finish with rookie pro Jude Eustaquio, who matched par 72, at 223.