Tournament of Champion
Monday, August 03, 2009
Repeat winner, visitors rule TOC
By Roselyn Monroyo
A defending champion and a couple of visiting golfers reigned supreme in the shortened 2009 Saipan Tournament of Champions.
Guam's Louie Sunga returned to Saipan and successfully defended his title in the centerpiece Championship Flight of the annual tournament that was played only for one round.
Only scores in yesterday's round were counted, as organizers cancelled the opening round due to bad weather. It rained Friday evening until Saturday morning, making both the east and west courses of the Laolao Bay Golf Resort unplayable.
Yesterday, the weather was better, allowing golfers to finish their game as early as 11am.
“I am glad we were able to play in the second round. Although the fairways were still wet, the greens were good and the wind was a bit cooperative,” said Sunga, who along with more than 100 participants played only two holes last Saturday before organizers suspended the round.
The Mangilao resident tamed the east course with his 2-under par 70 for back-to-back wins in the Championship Flight.
Saipan resident Bae Yong Man also shot a 2-under-par 70, but lost to Sunga in the sudden death playoff on hole No. 17. Sunga had a birdie on the par-4 hole, while Man only saved par, missing a birdie shot by four feet.
Despite the threat of another bad weather, Sunga found his victory yesterday much easier than in 2008.
“It was a bit easier this time, as we played only one round and I was much prepared this year. I've been practicing in Guam and joining several tournaments to prepare for my title defense,” the 37-year-old golfer said.
The Guam golfer topped last year's Championship Flight with a two-round score of 3-over par 147. He struggled in the opening round, placing only fourth after firing a 75. An even par 72 in the second round saved Sunga the win against Korean Gi Yeong Kim, who led in the first round with his 73, but dropped to second after nailing a 75 in the second round for a total of 4-over par 148.
In yesterday's game, Sunga had an even par 36 on the front nine and improved his performance by two strokes in the last nine holes with his 2-under par 34. Bae had the same front and back nines scores, but failed to get the needed break in the playoff hole to settle for the runner-up cash prize of $500.
Completing the Top 5 were Joji Taguchi (73), Seung Woo Kang (74), and Lee Jong Won (76).
Meanwhile, majority of the winners in the other flights were visitors from Korea, Guam, and Japan.
Korea's Yun Jeong Kim ruled the Ladies Open with her gross score of 75, beating Guam's Rose Tarpley (83) and Saipan's Noriko Togawa (83). Kimiko Abe of Japan won in the Ladies Low Net, while Saipan's Lorraine Babauta and Korea's Naeun Song finished second and third, respectively.
In the Super Seniors Flight, Guam's Bill Gariss shot a gross 77 to outclass Saipan's Jess Taitano (82) and Duke Yoo (84). Making it to the Top 5 were Korean's Kwang Min Kim and Guam's Mike Conley.
Manny Mangarero redeemed Saipan's pride when he defeated Guam's Victorino Borja in playoffs in the Seniors Flight. Both golfers shot a gross 77, but Mangarero won in the tiebreak after saving par on hole No. 17. Tony Satur (78) finished third, while last year's winner Ed Manibusan dropped to fourth. Guam's George Tydingco completed the Top 5.
Japan's Yoshinori Yamamoto had a three-stroke win in the C Flight, as he fired a gross 82 against runner-up Tony Sablan's 85. Marianas Visitors Authoriry's Martin Duenas placed third with his gross 87. Mario Taitano and Edward Sablan made it to the Top 5.
Rep. Diego Benavente topped the B Flight with a three-shot victory over Jun Calma, as the former drilled a gross 80 against the latter's 83. Ben Marborang (84), Tony Rogolifoi (84), and George Fleming (86) rounded out the Top 5.
Korea's Tae Sung Seol was the fifth visitor to rule a division, as he claimed first place in the A Flight. Seol carded a 4-over par 76 for a one-shot win over Saipan's Yasu Irinaka (77) and Guam's Phillip Mark Santos (77). Irinaka took the runner-up prize after beating Santos in the playoff hole.