Miñoza a TCC champion at last

Overcomes final-round 78 to nip Bayron brothers in sudden death

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CANLUBANG, Laguna—Regaining his poise after a horrible round in regulation, Frankie Miñoza prevailed on the second hole of a three-man sudden-death playoff yesterday to finally pick up the only big local title missing in his collection: The Country Club Invitational.

Miñoza, who started the day with a four-stroke lead after rounds of 68-73-64, ballooned to a closing eight-over-par 78, allowing brothers Jay and Rufino Bayron to forge a playoff at 283 after a 71 and 74 at the par-70 The Country Club course.

But the winner of the Japan Senior Open two months ago again flashed his deadly touch by rescuing par from the trap on the second playoff hole while Rufino, playing birdie from 12 feet, stroked his first putt four feet past the hole and then missed the tying putt.

Jay had bombed out of the playoff on the first extra hole by dumping his second shot from a fairway trap into the huge lagoon on the right.

“For someone who is 53, this is a dream come true for me,” said Miñoza, who hardly showed any emotion after the win by simply shaking the hand of Rufino.

“Winning against younger competition is very special,” added the veteran from Bukidnon, who has been campaigning on the senior tour for the last three years.

Victory was worth P1.5 million for Miñoza, but more than the money, the trophy will be a welcome addition to several local titles in his collection, including two Philippine Opens, won at Riviera’s Langer and Wack Wack East.

“After trying for 10 years, I am proud to award this trophy to a golfer who is actually older than me,” said Ricky Razon, the country’s foremost golf patron, as he handed the trophy to Miñoza—the oldest player in the exclusive 36-man field.

Razon has bankrolled this tournament for 11 straight years to honor his father, Don Pocholo, the founder of ICTSI.

Rufino, who remained winless as a pro, also lost to Miñoza in the 2011 Wack Wack leg of the ICTSI Tour, when Frankie came back from seven shots down in the final round.

Juvic Pagunsan and Angelo Que, who came into the tournament each seeking a record fourth title, missed the playoff by one at 284 after a 72 and 70, respectively.

Pagunsan made a bold charge like Que, tying for the lead with a par on the 13th only to bogey the 15th and then sign for a double bogey 6 in the next after a horrendous four-putt.

Que almost succeeded in erasing a nine-shot overnight deficit but bogeyed the closing hole.

Former PH Open champion Elmer Salvador was sixth after a 70 for 287.

Miñoza, who lost the TCC title to Pagunsan in another playoff in 2006, looked doomed again when he found the right bunker with his approach on the second playoff hole while Rufino Bayron found the green in regulation.

But Frankie blasted out to within five feet and then nailed the tricky left-to-right putt.

The final scores:

283—J. Bayron 69-72-71-71, F. Miñoza 68-73-64-78, R. Bayron 69-71-69-74; 284—J. Pagunsan 69-72-71-72, A. Que 68-70-76-70; 287—E. Salvador 71-73-73-70; 288—F. Aunzo 72-73-72-71, C. Casas 72-68-72-76, C. Santos-Ocampo 70-73-70-75; 289—A. Lascuña 72-74-70-73, C. Mondilla 72-73-68-77; 290—M. Tabuena 68-70-76-76; 291—M. Fernando 74-71-74-72; 293—M. Pucay 74-74-71-74, A. Fernando 72-73-74-74; 294—D. Ardina (Am) 74-72-70-78, J. Ababa79-72-67-76, R. Garalde 74-72-72-76; R. Pagunsan 295—71-71-78-75; 296—C. Hong 74-73-74-75, B. Magada 75-75-71-75

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