Aidric Chan became the first Filipino to win a Junior World Championship crown in five years, hitting a clutch birdie on No. 16 to edge New Zealand’s Jimmy Zheng by one in the boys’ centerpiece division in the Junior World Championships at the Torrey Pines North in San Diego, California Friday.
But Chan needed to gut it out in the last two holes to pull off the stirring victory, coming through with clutch pars and watching Zheng flub a pair of tying birdie putts to preserve the lead he gained with a solid drive and approach shot to within 8-10 feet which he banged in on the 16th.
He closed out with a 69 for a 72-hole total of 277, beating Zheng, who finished with a 71 for a 278.
“I worked hard for the past few weeks and took some time competing on international soil and trying to finish well,” said Chan, who also banked on his superb putting to hack out the victory. “My putting has been well for the whole week and I knew I had to make it (putt on No. 16).”
That practically shook off Zheng’s composure as the Kiwi muffed his own birdie bid from shorter range.
“But I still had I had to play smart on the last two to buck the pressure,” said the incoming Univ. of Arizona student, who honed his talent and skills under the Manila Southwoods golf program.
Despite a mediocre 72 start, Chan said he believed he could still rally and win “but I didn’t put that in mind.”
He actually strayed too far behind to contend with a three-birdie, three-bogey start to fall six strokes off a hot-starting Andi Xu of California.
But the former Ateneo stalwart worked his way back to joint fifth with a 69 in the second round still led by Xu then threatened to within two off new leader Walker Franklin, who sizzled with a 65, with a third day 67.
But as Franklin cracked under pressure in the final round and limped with a 74, Zheng, just one behind after 54 holes, took over with Chan in hot pursuit with two others just another stroke back to stay in the hunt for the coveted crown in the 15-18 division.
The Kiwi actually went 3-up over Chan with a birdie-birdie feat from No. 3 as the Filipino ace fumbled then recovered and fumbled then recovered again for a bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie start.
But Chan birdied the par-5 fifth and pulled to within one as Zheng dropped a stroke on the sixth before the latter moved 2-up again with a birdie on No. 7, only to yield the stroke with another bogey on the ninth.
Both birdied the par-5 10th as Zheng clung to a one-stroke lead but Chan birdied the par-3 12th to draw level, went 1-up as Zheng bogeyed the next only to make it another all-square match as Chan dropped a stroke on No. 14 in the face of mounting pressure.
But the spearhead of the country’s bid in this year’s SEA Games came through with that clutch birdie on the 16th.