Balasabas nails breakthru win in Philippines Masters

Balasabas nails breakthru win in Philippines Masters

Jerson Balasabas raises his trophies in the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters at Villamor Air Base Golf Club. Ernie Peñaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — Jerson Balasabas ended a long quest for a breakthrough win the hard way, recovering from a wobbly finish in regulation and edging Dutch Guido Van der Valk on the first sudden death hole to snare the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters crown at the Villamor Golf Club yesterday.

The former amateur hotshot, who has gone without a win since breaking into the pro ranks in 2010, toughened up in a pressure-laden finish, coming through with a routine par on their second trip at the par-5 18th to clinch the coveted crown as Van der Valk overshot the green and muffed his par-putt from 15 feet.

“I’m glad to get over the hump. Now I know what it feels like to win,” said Balasabas, who missed winning the crown outright with a flubbed birdie-putt on the 72nd hole.

He actually blew a two-stroke lead with three holes left in regulation as he bogeyed No. 16 coupled with Van der Valk’s birdie on the final hole three flights ahead. The Filipino bet closed out with a 72 while the Manila-based ace from Lelystad, the Netherlands fought back with a 70 to force a playoff at 285.

The victory, worth P550,000, also augured well for Balasabas going to the resumption of the PGT Asia next week at Riviera where Clyde Mondilla is the defending champion. It also foiled Van der Valk’s bid for back-to-back victories in the early season of the Philippine Golf Tour put up by ICTSI following his three-stroke win in the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Challenge last March, also the 33-year-old shotmaker’s first victory here.

While Balasabas split the fairway in the playoff, Van der Valk drove into the trees, needed to play out but overshot the green on his third shot from 150 yards, the ball nearly going out of bounds. Balasabas dumped his 4-iron second shot into the greenside bunker and made a poor blast, the ball resting 50 feet away from the cup.

But he nearly drilled in the long birdie putt while Van der Valk’s missed the par putt from 15 feet.