by Waylon Galvez
STA. ROSA, Laguna — Clyde Mondilla clinched the biggest victory of his seven-year pro career Saturday by topping the 101st Solaire Philippine Open golf championship Saturday at The Country Club.
The 25-year-old Bukidnon star closed out with a three-over par 75 to edge American Nicolas Paez by two shots and finish the four-day event at two-over 290.
Mondilla saw his overnight four-shot lead reduce into half after going four-over in the first 13 holes, but he checked the skid with back-to-back birdies from the 14th to ease the pressure.
Paez, playing ahead of Mondilla, capped the day’s best score – a 70 — with a birdie on the final hole for 292 and waited on the final green.
Mondilla was up to the challenge, however, wrapping up his campaign with two closing pars.
After holing out on the final hole, Mondilla punched his fist on the air in triumph while some players, including Paez, poured water on the new champion.
“I’ve won a number of tournaments in the regular circuit but this one is the most memorable, meaningful. I will never forget it,” said Mondilla who received the winner’s check of $90,000 (about P4.68 million) from Solaire president Thomas Arasi.
The winning total was one of the highest scores in Open history, eclipsed only by the 292 posted by Taiwanese Hsieh Min-Nan at Wack-Wack in 1982.
Miguel Tabuena, who skipped the tournament due to injury, won the Open here last year at one-over 289.
Mondilla joined the illustrious roster of 17 Filipino champions and became the third golfer from Bukidnon to win the country’s most prestigious tournament after Celestino Tugot and Frankie Minoza.
It was a remarkable comeback for the Del Monte ace who missed the cut last week at Riviera Golf Club in Cavite.