TARLAC—The Philippine Golf Tour Asia kicks off its second season today (Tuesday, April 17) with a promise of a shootout among a crack international cast right at the start of the $100,000 ICTSI Luisita Championship at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here.
While majority of the foreign cast, led by those who earned their Tour cards in last weekend’s Q-School, hope to sustain their form, the local top guns will be coming into the event fresh from a long break, making them hungry and eager to slug it out with the best of the best.
“It’s been a while since we last played in the Philippine Open. So I think we have a chance here, everybody is raring to go,” said multi-titled Tony Lascuña. “I, for one, am keen on winning again.”
The Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club last March served as the final leg of the inaugural PGT Asia with Miguel Tabuena edging Thai Prom Meesawat in the playoff to rule the Centennial staging of Asia’s oldest National Open.
Tabuena has begged off to lead the Filipinos’ bid at one of his favorite courses but the likes of Lascuña, Clyde Mondilla and Jhonnel Ababa are more than ready to fill in the slack and take the cudgels for the locals out to extend their domination of the region’s newest circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Tabuena and Ababa won two legs each while Mondilla, Lascuña, Rene Menor and Justin Quiban accounted for the four other titles in the first season of the circuit put up to raise the level of the Filipino golfers’ games and at the same time make the country a major golfing destination.
But this year’s foreign contingent from at least 17 countries looks formidable with Q-School topnotcher Sattaya Supupramai also tipped to re-display the form that netted him the winning 14-under 274 total at the quaint Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed layout.
Fellow Thais Sorachut Hansapiban and Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who finished among the Top 5 last week, are also in the fold, along with South African Mathiam Keyser, who placed second to Tabuena here last year, and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, whose victory in last month’s PGT first leg at Eagle Ridge also makes him a top contender for the top $17,500 purse in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Competition is expected to be fierce with only the top 50 players plus ties from a starting field of 129 advancing to the final 36 holes of the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
Others tipped to contend are John Michael O’Toole and Nicolas Paez of the US, Matt Killen of England, Aussie David Gleeson, Ian Andrew of Indonesia, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Japanese Yuta Sudo and Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, last year’s Q-School topnotcher.
Also vowing to dish out a strong start are local bets Joenard Rates, Michael Bibat, Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Jerson Balasabas, Jobim Carlos, Keanu Jahns, Zanieboy Gialon, Orlan Sumcad, Ira Alido, Marvin Dumandan, James Lam, Mhark Fernando, Ferdie Aunzo and Mars Pucay.
Meanwhile, Riviera will host the second leg of the 10-stage PGTA on May 30-June 2 with Manila Southwoods staging the third tournament on June 5-8 before the circuit moves to Forest Hills on July 11-14, Orchard on Sept. 5-8, Summit Point on Sept. 12-15 before heading back to Luisita on Oct. 17-20 for the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open. Venues for the last three stages are still being finalized.