Zaragosa is world champ


Rupert “Dodong” Zaragosa buried a difficult par-saving putt on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to beat American Norman Xiong for the boys 11-12 years division title in the 43rd Callaway Junior World golf championships here on Friday (Saturday in Manila).

Returning to The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo after the three-way playoff was suspended by darkness on Thursday, Zaragosa used his superb short game to dispose of Xiong and deliver the lone victory for the 51-strong Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines contingent in the tourney which featured almost a thousand players from all over the globe.

Miguel Tabuena added to the Philippine celebration by placing an impressive fifth among 144 entries in the centerpiece boys 15-17 years division at Torrey Pines south with a closing 73 for a 291 aggregate. It was the best finish by a Filipino in the same class since Carito Villaroman won back-to-back in 1985-86.

After Brad Dalke also of the US bogeyed his way out of the playoff before the suspension, Zaragosa, barely 5 feet tall whose trip here was sponsored by Philippine Airlines, was left to settle the matter with 5-foot-8 Xiong.

Dodong drove into the right rough, left his approach 30 yards short and the small crowd was already expecting an extension of the playoff as the Filipino kid faced a difficult putt with a left to right break 15 feet away.

The winning putt started weak but gained pace midway then swerved right into the cup sending the Filipino gallery into a wild frenzy.

In Manila, Dodong father, touring pro Boyet, said his family owes his son’s victory to the many benefactors who have given him the chance to play the game.

“The Canlubang management has taken him under their care and even his education (Dodong is a freshman at the Don Bosco Canlubang) is being provided by a friend,” the elder Zaragosa said. “I’ve always asked him to take his weekend practices seriously but study hard at the same time.”

Zaragosa joins a list of illustrious champions in his division among them Tiger Woods who won it in 1988. Three other Filipinos, Ramon Brobio, Cosco Oben and Wolen Superal, also won the same event in different years.

In the girls 15-17 years division, Dottie Ardina carded an even-par 74 to share sixth place at 295. Sarah Ababa (72) and Irina Gabasa (75) salvaged a tie for 10th at 298. – via www.mb.com.ph

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