SAN DIEGO, California—After rededicating herself to the game just over a year ago, Pauline Del Rosario churned out the performance of her young career on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to become a world junior champion.
The high schooler from De La Salle-Zobel birdied the final hole of The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, polishing off a flawless four-under-par 68 to complete a swashbuckling comeback and nip local heroine Haley Moore by a shot in the girls’ 13-14 division of the Callaway Junior World Championships.
It was a victory that touched off the Philippines’ two-title harvest as Kristoffer Arevalo triumphed in the same come-from-behind style with a 68 at Morgan Run Resort Club, giving him a three-shot victory over Thailand’s Puwit Anupansuebasai in the boys’ 13-14 play.
“It’s a great and happy day for Philippine junior golf,” said Luigi Tabuena, president of the Junior Golf Federation of the Philippines.
“Kristoffer and Pauline again proved that we can be world champions even with our limited resources. It’s the trademark Filipino fighting spirit shining through.”
The twin successes partially made up for the heartbreak of Mikhaela Fortuna’s collapse in the girls’ 11-12 division.
After holding the lead for two rounds, Fortuna struggled to a closing two-over-par 75 to finish second by three shots to Japan’s Miyaki Tezuka at Rancho Bernardo Inn.
Moore, a club member who set the pace after the first two rounds, submitted a 70 and was still in the lead after an eagle 3 on No. 14.
After drawing level with the American—for the first and only time in three rounds—with a routine par on the 16th, Del Rosario finished off Moore in style by hitting a 40-yard wedge on the par-5 18th to within a foot of the cup for the title-clinching birdie.
That shot gave Del Rosario a 10-under 206 total, breaking the hearts of residents and local media here who were waiting for the emergence of a new junior world champion from San Diego. Laurie Rinker was the last from the area to triumph in 1977.
Arevalo tallied a 12-under 204 with Anupansuebasai, a member of the Lion City Cup team of Thailand that played at Sherwood in Cavite last month, shooting a 66 to nip South Korea’s Won Jun-lee (68) by a shot for second place.
It was the first Junior World title for Del Rosario, who, after finishing second in the 10-under class here three years ago abandoned the game indefinitely.
“I don’t know why I did that,” Del Rosario, who broke par all three rounds but was without a bogey in the last 36 holes, said on why she quit. “I just wanted to play golf and school is my first priority.”
Moore still had a one-shot lead on the Filipino going to the 16th tee only to hit a wayward drive that resulted in that crucial bogey.
Paphangkorn Tavatanakit of Thailand, tied for the lead with Moore at the start of the round, was third at 210 after a 73.
Tezuka, one-down at the start of the day, fired a 71 for 215 to win comfortably after Fortuna went three over after 11 holes. She dropped two shots on the par-4 ninth and by that time, trailed the Japanese by three shots.
Minori Nagano, the second Japanese stalking Fortuna in the first two rounds, was third at 220, also after a 75.
Meanwhile, over at windy Torrey Pines North, Daniela Uy cracked par for the first time, returning a two-under 70 but still found herself losing ground to American Mariel Galdiano in the girls’ 15-17.
Uy, a veteran campaigner in this event, had 214 over 54 holes for solo second, but Galdiano padded her overnight lead to six after carding a second straight 69.
Bianca Pagdanganan and Princess Superal shared sixth spot, 10 strokes behind after a 70 and 71, respectively.
Gigi Stroll of Beaverton, Oregon, was in third spot, a shot behind Uy after a third-round 73.
Filipino-American Rico Hoey all but blew his historic repeat quest in the premier boys’ 15-17 division at windy Torrey Pines after ballooning to a third-round 79, leaving him seven shots off the pace going into Friday’s final round.
Costa Rican Jose Mendez returned a second straight 71 and built a three-shot lead over Lucas Herbert of Australia, who submitted a 73, with a 210 aggregate with Mexico’s Roberto Lebrija another stroke back after a 71.
Pint-sized Rupert Zaragosa, the reigning national champion back home, was 13 shots off at 223 after carding another 75.
Jungolf president Tabuena also cited the Filipinos’ strong performances in the other divisions, including Jed Dy who tied for fourth and Eagle Ace Superal who landed fifth in the boys’ and girls’ 9-10 years, respectively.
Aidric Chan shared fourth place in the boys’ 11-12, Bernice Ilas tied for sixth and Sam Bruce tied for ninth in the girls’ 11-12, and Anya Cedo finished seventh in the girls’ 6-under.
Dy and Ilas were the stars of a similar PH victory double last year in the boys’ 7-8 years and the girls’ 9-10 years.
Uy and Superal will shoot for the country’s first-ever team victory when they start five shots ahead of Japan, 432-437, on Friday.