Gabi, Flores buck challenges to impress in JPGT Iloilo golf tilt

Gabi, Flores buck challenges to impress in JPGT Iloilo golf tilt
Category champions Inno Flores (third from left) and Alexie Gabi (third from right) hold their medals as they pose with (from left) Luciano Copok, Dannuo Zhu, Tiffany Bernardino and Rane Chiu during awards rights of the 13-14 division of the Junior PGT Iloilo Visayas Series.
Pilipinas Golf

ILOILO – In challenging conditions, Alexie Isabella Gabi and Inno Miguel Flores overcame early struggles and late-round pressure, emerging victorious in the 13-15 category of the ICTSI JPGT Iloilo Visayas Series here Wednesday.

Both players showcased remarkable resilience and skill at the demanding par-70 Iloilo Golf Club course, defying numerous challenges posed by the course and their respective rivals to secure impressive victories. Gabi carded a 91 while Flores shot a 76 and matched eight-stroke romps.

Despite a shaky front nine, Gabi maintained her composure and capitalized on Tiffany Bernardino’s mistakes to clinch the title in the girls’ division with a total score of 253 over 54 holes. The 12-year-old Gen. Santos City native’s ability to recover from a double-bogey-riddled frontside 51 and finish strong with a back nine 40 demonstrated her tenacity and mental toughness.

Bernardino, struggling in wet conditions, ended with an 83 for a 261, while Rane Chiu placed third with an 85 for a 269.

"My first nine holes were tough, but I managed to catch up on the back nine," said Gabi, a student at Quantum Academy, who relied on her excellent pitching and putting on the latter half of the course.

"I just told myself to focus on my game instead of getting annoyed and distracted," added Gabi, who will also compete in the two upcoming Bacolod tournaments over the next two weeks.

Flores, on the other hand, displayed a steady performance throughout the tournament. Starting the final round four strokes ahead, he faced strong competition from Luciano Copok, Ty Ritchie Go and Dannuo Zhu. However, his closing 35 on the last nine holes helped him secure a commanding victory with a total of 236 after a six-over round.

Flores’ strategic play and focus on minimizing errors highlighted his competitive edge and determination.

“I focused on playing consistently,” said Flores, who showcased his prowess with a solid one-over score on the back nine, where consistent pars dominated his performance.

Despite a lone bogey in the final stretch, the 13-year-old from Negros Occidental maintained a steady focus on his game.

Buoyed by this convincing victory, he looks forward to the upcoming series, starting with Binitin in Bacolod next week and culminating at his home course, the Marapara layout in Negros Occidental the following week.

Zhu carded an 80 to snare runner-up honors at 244, while Copok and Go finished with 245 and 249 after 81 and 82, respectively.

Gabi and Flores’ performances in the first of three tournaments in the Visayas series not only underscored their individual talents but also set a high standard for future competitions. Their ability to adapt to challenging conditions and maintain composure under pressure is a testament to their potential as rising stars in the ICTSI-sponsored circuit, hinting at even greater achievements in the future.

They joined earlier winners Kvan Jess Alburo and Denise Eliana Mendoza, who topped their respective sides in the 8-9 category, and Kurt Flores and Cailey Chanelle Gonzales, who prevailed in the 10-12 division, both played over 36 holes.

In the premier 16-18 category of the series, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc., twin brothers John Rey and John Paul Oro took the 1-2 spots in the boys' side set over 72 holes.

John Rey, despite stumbling with a 79, stayed on top with a 226 but John Paul charged within two strokes at 228 with a 73, setting the stage for a thrilling Bacolod rivalry. Eddie Gonzales, Jr. also struggled with a 79, falling back to 234, eight shots off the lead.

“I struggled on the greens because the pin placements were difficult, but I did my best,” said John Rey, who managed to rebound with two birdies against four bogeys in his frontside finish.

“There’s pressure, but I’m excited. It’s going to be a great match,” he added, anticipating his upcoming duel with John Paul.

In the girls’ division, Rhiena Mae Sinfuego all but wrapped up the championship with an 87, bringing her total to 268. Fellow Santa Barbara native Necky May Tortosa skied to a 103 for a 316, while Blessy Solinap made a 112 for third spot at 356.

Despite her huge lead, Sinfuego is determined to deliver a strong final round performance. Her goal is not only to improve her score but also to attract sponsors for her future JPGT campaigns.

“I plan to join the Bacolod tournaments, so I hope to improve my game and my score to attract sponsors,” said Sinfuego, who aspires to join the professional ranks like her uncle Richard in the future.

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