Bibat fends off rivals, nails maiden win

Michael Bibat ended a five-year long search for a breakthrough victory, fending off a slew of rivals in a wild, wooly finale to nail the ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes crown with a two-under 69 and a two-stroke win over local aces Tony Lascuña and Elmer Salvador in Davao City yesterday.
Bibat whisked off co-leaders Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Dante Becierra’s challenge early then survived a furious fightback by a host of pursuers infront of them with a gutsy backside stint to card a 35-34 round and finally end a long wait for his biggest win since bagging the bronze medal in the Asian Games in Doha in 2006.
“It’s a nice feeling, really sweet for me because it’s my first title after five years as a pro,” said Bibat, who had a number of final round meltdowns that stymied his bid for a first-ever pro win on the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
This time, he played steady all through three days, stringing rounds of 68 and 67 to join Van der Valk and Becierra in the lead then hung tough to foil the bids of Davao aces Jay Bayron, Tony Lascuña and Elmer Salvador in a thrilling backside battle.
He wound up with a 204 and pocketed the top purse of P200,000 in the tournament which served as the fifth leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Salvador, three behind at the start of the final round, moved within one at the turn but failed to gain headway with two bogeys against two birdies at the back for a 68, while Lascuna, five off after 36 holes, closed to within two midway through but could only finish with a 34 for a 66. Both ended up with 206 and split the combined purse of P210,000.
Bayron, a come-from-behind winner at ICTSI John Hay last April, headed for a repeat when he tied Bibat after nine holes with a 33 and grabbed the lead with a birdie on No. 10. But he fumbled with a costly triple-bogey 7 on No. 13 and finished with a 70 for joint fourth with five others at 207.
They included Frankie Minoza, who also threatened to within two after No. 11 but like the rest of the challengers, failed to sustain his charge, winding up with a second 68. Ferdie Aunzo also had a flawless 32 but ran out of holes and scored a 66, Reymon Jaraula also fought back to within two after No. 12 but made a run of pars before bogeying the last hole for a 68 while Elmer Saban, just one off the lead after 36 holes, settled for an even par 71.
Van der Valk, who led in the first round and shared the lead heading to the final 18 holes, cracked under pressure, limping with a 72 and dropping to the big group of 207 scorers who took home P34,000 each.
Becierra, who showed a lot of promise with a solid 67 Thursday, also wavered on a day he vowed to make a charge, hobbling with a 75 and tumbling down to joint 14th at 210.
Salvador, a former Order of Merit champion, threatened last to within one with a birdie on No. 14 but scrambled for pars in the next three holes. He went for broke on the tough finishing hole, but his approach shot fell short, hitting the fringe before the ball rolled down to about 20 feet. He wound up with a bogey.
“I knew I needed a birdie so I went for it. Sadly, it hit the fringe and rolled back,” rued Salvador in Filipino.
Lascuna, the ICTSI Calatagan leg runaway winner who teed off six flights ahead of Bibat and company, charged back with a solid 32 and hit another birdie on No. 15 to close to within two off Bibat, only to flub a pair of birdie putts in close range in the last three holes.
“I knew I had a chance when I went four-under after nine holes. I actually got my chance at the back but I just couldn’t cash in,” said Lascuna.
No one could be as dejected than Bayron, who wrested the lead on the 10th with a four-under card but made a disastrous 7 on 13th and fell with a thud.
“Let’s not talk about it. That’s golf, anything can happen,” said Bayron.
LJ Go rebounded from a 73 with a 68 and took the low amateur honors with a 208, finishing tied for 10th with Clyde Mondilla, who also made a 68, and Anthony Fernando, who shot a 70.(pr)

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