Chiu rises from the brink, snares JPGT Negros title, finals slot

Rane Chiu and Nyito Tiongko display their medals after winning the JPGT Visayas Series 3 leg in Negros Occidental.

BACOLOD – Stacy Rane Chiu achieved an extraordinary victory in the ICTSI JPGT Visayas Series 3 on Wednesday, not only securing the girls’ 13-15 category title at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club but also earning a coveted spot in the Philippine Junior Match Play Championship.

Chiu garnered 15 crucial points with her remarkable come-from-behind win, tying at the top with Bernardino with 27 points from a victory and a runner-up finish. This edged out Alexie Gabi, who amassed 25 points, for the last berth in the national finals at The Country Club in Laguna this October.

Chiu also surpassed Gabi for second place at the Bacolod Golf and Country Club in Murcia, a tournament won by Bernardino the previous week. Gabi, who won the first leg in Iloilo, aimed to join Bernardino in the national finals with a runner-up finish in Bacolod.

However, Bernardino squandered a three-stroke lead with two holes to play, stumbling with a double bogey and a bogey for an 87 and a 263 total. Chiu matched this with gritty closing pars for an 85, forcing a sudden death playoff.

Both players bogeyed the first playoff hole on No. 1, with Chiu tenaciously staying in contention. The Cebuana native then showcased her resilience, winning the par-4 opening hole with a par as Bernardino struggled with her bunker shots, needing five strokes to reach the green.

“I stayed calm and took it shot by shot because you never really know what will happen,” said Chiu, whose improbable victory added drama and excitement to a series otherwise marked by dominant performances.

“I felt a lot of pressure being seven strokes down after nine holes as I kept making bogeys. Despite catching up to Tiffany in the last nine holes, the pressure remained,” said the 15-year-old Chiu, who sank a crucial 14-foot putt for par on the 54th hole to force a tie.

In the boys’ 13-15 category, Tiongko maintained firm control with a closing 80, securing victory over Gabriel Handog despite a frontside 41. He finished with a total of 234, defeating Handog by 10 strokes. Handog ended with an 82 for a 244, while Inno Flores finished third with a 255 after an 81.

With back-to-back victories, Tiongko accumulated 30 points, towing Flores, who garnered 27 points, into the national finals of the nationwide series sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I really focused on winning and prayed hard,” said Tiongko, adding: “I’m so excited to play at TCC. It will be my first time, and hopefully, not my last.”

Dominique Gotiong all but secured the girls’ 16-18 crown and a seat in the national finals for the second consecutive week. She delivered a 78 for a 246 total, establishing a whopping 56-stroke lead over Rhiena Sinfuego, who struggled with a 101 for a 302. Breanna Rojas remained third with a 109 for a 314.

Gotiong had a runaway 18-shot victory over Sinfuego in her impressive JPGT debut in Murcia. The 16-year-old Cebuana more than tripled that margin with her best output in seven rounds.

“I had difficulty reading the greens, but I was able to improve my score and finish strong,” said Gotiong, who made five bogeys in a backside start before closing with a 38 at the demanding par 35-35 layout. Despite her significant lead, Gotiong emphasized the need to focus on her up-and-down game as she aims to deliver her best round in the final 18 holes.

In the premier boys’ division, Bukidnon’s Simon Wahing holed out with a double bogey on the par-4 No. 9, finishing with a 78 for a 229 total. This allowed Bryce Lacida to close within three strokes after the local player carded a 77, highlighted by a hole-in-one for a 232 total.

Wahing overcame errant driving, managing two birdies against five bogeys in their backside start, and maintained a five-stroke lead despite a double bogey on the first hole and a bogey on No. 8. However, dropping two strokes on the final hole allowed Lacida to close in with a par.

“I struggled with my driving and made three OBs (out-of-bounds),” said Wahing, who nevertheless remained confident in his title chances heading into the final 18 holes.

Lacida kept Wahing within sight with an ace on the 170-yard No. 13, using an 8-iron and a Titleist Pro V1 #4 ball. He moved within two strokes with four straight pars for a 36 but faltered in the last eight holes, playing them in six-over, enabling Wahing to maintain a three-stroke lead with 18 holes to play.

Iloilo leg winner John Rey Oro fired a 75 but remained seven shots behind Wahing at 236.


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