Asian Games gold medal team members Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go hope to hurdle a pair of tough groupings and fuel their respective title drives in the Philippine Amateur Open Golf Championships, which unfolds today (Thursday, Jan. 3) at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
Aidric Chan, Carl Corpus and Jed Dy, meanwhile, banner the hosts’ bid against a slew of foreign rivals in the men’s side in one of the strongest casts ever assembled in the country’s premier championship in years.
The locals are seeking to end the foreign domination of the event, which drew top players from Korea, Singapore, the US, Ireland, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Guam and Korea, which swept the titles last year through now pro Kim Joo Hyung and Hwang Min-Jeong.
Pagdanganan gears up for an early clash with Thai ace Atthaya Thitikul and Singapore’s Callista Chen at 7:50 a.m. on No. 10 just behind the group of Go, who is paired with The Country Club mainstay Mikha Fortuna and Inez Ng, also of Singapore.
Thitikul, the youngest player to win a pro tournament in the Ladies European Thailand Championship in 2017 at 14, is out to get back at Pagdanganan after missing out a podium finish in the Asiad where she was one of the fancied bets following her victory in the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific crown in Singapore.
But the Koreans, led by last year’s ladies runner-up Kim Heeji along with Kim Seo Yun and Lee Yeonseo, are also expected to come out strong on the hazard-laden course they call home, guaranteeing a fiery start in the 72-hole championship sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation and serving as the kickoff leg of this year’s PLDT National Amateur Golf Tour.
Keen competition is also seen in the men’s division of the event organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines with Chan and Corpus leading the hosts’ charge along with Paolo Wong, Weiwei Gao, Josh Jorge, Peter Po, Ryan Monsalve, Kristoffer Arevalo, Miguel Ilas and Dy, who with Pagdanganan are coming off a big win in the National Doubles last weekend.
Also on tap is the Special Division for boys and girls’ 12 years old and below as part of NGAP’s continuing talent-search. Leading the boys’ cast are Santino Pineda, Vince Tiamsic and Zack Villaroman while Alethea Gaccion, Venice Tiamsic and Jody Castillo banner the girls’ roster that also drew a slew of Koreans.
Still, focus will be on the centerpiece Open division with 16 Koreans, led by Jang Ji Ho, Jang Sung Hun, Kim Min Jun, Ha Tae Won and Kim Jong Ook, out to crowd the local bets in men’s play along with Liam Cully and Leo Connolly from Ireland, Ricardo Terlajo from Guam, Japanese Atsushi Ueda, Kyosuke and Gen Nagai, Malaysians Ying Hock Hong and Marcus Chuen and Dutch Frank Schneider.
Singapore is also fielding in six players in the event, including Andre Chong and Brandon Han, while Thailand will pin its hopes on Vanchai Luangnitikul and Nopparat Panichphol.
Chan, winner of a number of low amateur titles in the pro circuit, drew David Guangko and Korean Jang Ji Ho at 11:30 a.m. on No. 1 while Corpus kicks off his bid against Gen Nagai and Luis Castro at 11:40 a.m. on No. 10. Dy, on the other hand, opens his bid for a second straight crown against Graeme Tamayo and Kang Jae Hwan of Korea at 7:40 a.m., also on the first hole.