With two of the winners of the first four legs of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour out due to various reasons, Zanieboy Gialon and Guido Van der Valk go all-out for a second crack at PGT glory in the ICTSI Riviera Championship unfolding Tuesday (Oct. 4) at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
Gialon posted a runaway victory in Caliraya Springs’ first hosting of a PGT leg last April while Van der Valk pulled off a stirring come-from-behind win to defeat Luisita stage winner Miguel Tabuena in sudden death at Splendido Taal last May.
But despite the absence of Tabuena, who is set to resume his campaign abroad, and recent Eagle Ridge-Aoki leg champion Michael Bibat, who is sidelined by back spasm after a gym workout last week, Gialon and Van der Valk still face an uphill battle in pursuit of another crown in the P2 million championship put up by ICTSI.
With the likes of multi-titled Juvic Pagunsan, Angelo Que, Tony Lascuña, Clyde Mondilla, Jhonnel Ababa, along with young guns Ira Alido, Sean Ramos, Ivan Monsalve and Rupert Zaragosa all geared up for the title chase, Gialon and Van der Valk indeed have a lot of fine-tuning to do to fuel another title drive, foil the charge of the other fancied bets and emerge as the first “double” champion heading to the season’s final leg at Pradera Verde on Oct. 25-28.
“I didn’t play consistently at Eagle Ridge, but hopefully, with a little luck, I get the chance to prove myself again next week,” said Gialon, who tied for sixth at Aoki spiked by 67 and 69 but marred by a couple of 73s.
Bibat also struggled a bit at Eagle Ridge but played steady enough in the stretch to outlast Lascuña and hold off Jaraula and break a nine-year title spell with a one-stroke escape last July.
“Really felt bad for not being able to play this week. I’ve been preparing to score a follow-up to my win at Eagle Ridge but got injured. My therapy session runs till next week, so hopefully, I’ll be able to suit up for Pradera Verde,” said Bibat.
Still, the Riviera cast remains as talent-laden as ever, guaranteeing a fierce, wild chase for the crown with no one holding a distinct advantage on a thinking course that rewards solid, accurate shots but punishes even the slightest of mishits.
Six amateurs spice up the title hunt with Leandro Bagtas, Edison Tabalin, Jonas Magcalayo, Josh Jorge, Zachary Villaroman and Shinichi Suzuki keen on pulling off a surprise at the well-maintained par-71, tight, rolling layout with deep bunkers and hazards and sleek surface.
Others tipped to contend are Jay Bayron, Jerson Balasabas, Ferdie Aunzo, Rufino Bayron, Jobim Carlos, Fidel Concepcion, Albin Engino, Anthony Fernando, Gerald Rosales, Eric Gallardo, Keanu Jahns, Frankie Miñoza, Mars Pucay, Joenard Rates, Orlan Sumcad, Arnold Villacencio, Korean Lee Song and club pro Marvin Dumandan.
Though some of the men of the tour are coming off a long break after the Eagle Ridge sortie, majority have stayed in shape through regular practice and training with the likes of Alido, Gallardo and Concepcion coming into the event fresh from a series of stints on the Asian Development Tour.