Kim Joo Hyung became the youngest winner on the Philippine Golf Tour at 16, beating the hottest player on the circuit no less with a kind of resolve and resilience rarely seen on a teenager barely warming up on big-time tournaments.
But the rising Korean star, who honed his talent and skills at Riviera before moving over to Southwoods, proved he’s ripe for the picking, foiling Jobim Carlos with clutch birdies to capture the P3 million ICTSI Pueblo De Oro Championship crown by one on a final round 69 at the Pueblo De Oro Golf and Country Club.
Pressed by Carlos after 54 holes, Kim shook off the PGT Apo leg winner’s early charge and hiked his overnight one-stroke lead to three with a gutsy 35 at the turn. He then rode the backside pressure, including a double-bogey mishap on the par-3 11th, by coming through with decisive three straight birdies from No. 15 to frustrate Carlos and clinch the victory on a 72-hole total of 18-under 270 worth a whopping P550,000.
The Filipino ace actually closed out with three straight birdies, a kind of finish that could easily win championships. But he fell short of even forcing a playoff as Kim took a two-stroke lead to the final hole and secured the win with a routine par windup. Carlos also made a 69 for a 271 and took the P370,000 runner-up prize in the fifth leg of the PGT sponsored by ICTSI.
“I was surprised to hear that (youngest winner on the tour). I just wanted to win this one, so it’s a bonus,” said Kim, who bested Miguel Tabuena’s feat when the latter nailed his first pro win at 17 at Splendido in 2012.
But what made Kim’s exploit impressive was that he did it in his just third tournament as a pro. After placing joint second with Aussie Tim Stewart in the PGT Q-School topped by compatriot Lee Song at Splendido last February, he decided to skip the first two PGT events to polish his game in Thailand for two months.
He debuted with a joint sixth place effort at Apo then duplicated his finish at Del Monte which he actually co-led with Tony Lascuña in the final round marred by a mid-round miscue that cost him a two-stroke penalty and eventually his title bid.
But the setback only made the young shotmaker hungrier and fiercer as he put in a pair of 69s and a second round 63 that shoved him past Carlos and into the lead he preserved up to the finish with another three-under card.
“Jobim made me earn it. I knew from the start that this was a possible scenario. But through hard work and patience, I was able to pull it off,” said Kim. “It was quite a challenge especially from a guy who has more experience than I am.”
While players his age would crack under extreme pressure after that costly wet double bogey on No. 11 that enabled Carlos to pull within one again, the portly Kim showed he’s made of sterner stuff, matching his rival’s birdie on the next from five feet then went 2-up again with a tap-in birdie on No. 15 before trading birdies with Carlos in the next two holes.
“I told myself that it was OK, that I can rebound from that mistake,” said Kim of his No. 11 misfortune where he dumped his tee shot on the large lake guarding the green.
Carlos rued his flubbed birdie putt from 15 feet on No. 15 but praised Kim’s superb all around game all week.
“I know he’s been working hard for this,” said Carlos, who had hoped to nail a third victory after scoring a breakthrough at PGT Asia Riviera leg last month.
Lee Song, also from Korean, also closed out with a 69 and took third place with 276 worth P215,000 while Kim Sung Wook underscored the Koreans’ solid showing in the P3 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. by finishing joint fourth with Tony Lascuña (69) and Jerson Balasabas (71) at 277. Each received P136,666.
Elmer Salvador hit five birdies but bogeyed the last for a 68 and ended up tied for seventh at 278 with Reymon Jaraula, who shot a 69, while Japanese Takahashi Keisuke fired a 68 and tied Johvanie Abaño, who carded a 71, at ninth at 279 at the close of the Mindanao swing of the circuit backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.