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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rising stars set for fierce Pradera Verde battle

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LUBAO, Pampanga—Jiwon Lee is aiming for improvement and strength following a commanding victory at Splendido Taal but expects a tougher challenge in pursuit of a second straight victory in the ICTSI Junior PGT Luzon Series 2, which gets going today (Tuesday, May 28) at the Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club course here.

Although Lee missed her target of a 15-over total in her 13-stroke victory in the series’ kickoff leg at Splendido Taal, she believes she gained invaluable experience, determined to deliver a stronger performance this week and in the upcoming legs of the 14-stage tour.

“I’m a bit nervous but super excited to play. I think my excitement comes from the confidence I’ve built over the past few weeks,” said Lee, who nailed her victory with a 17-over 305 total, finishing 13 strokes ahead of Lia Duque.

“I want to play better than my last JPGT event, as I’m more aware of my weaknesses now. I’ll try to improve and score as low as possible,” she added.

However, Lee will need more than confidence as she competes for another championship. The girls’ 15-18 field is toughened by competitors like Reese Ng, Duque, Maria Monserrat Lapuz, Rafa Anciano and Angelica Bañez.

Ng brings vast international experience, having triumphed in the American Junior Golf Association and recently capturing the Asian Junior Masters in Thailand.

Duque, Lapuz, Anciano and Bañez are also poised for a strong competition for the 72-hole event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and supported by PGTI official apparel Kampfortis Golf.

Lee, Ng and Duque tee off at 7 a.m. at the third nine of the vast Pradera golf complex.

The key focus at Pradera Verde is on length, thanks to its wide fairways. However, players should remain cautious of the numerous bunkers and hazards that add a layer of challenge to the well-maintained layout.

The ICTSI-sponsored series aims to nurture young talent and promote the sport, ensuring no scheduling conflicts and fostering a cooperative atmosphere for the players’ benefit.

A tight finish is also expected in the boys’ 15-18 division with Shinichi Suzuki joining for the first time and expected to be a strong contender. He will compete alongside Tristan Padilla, Santino Pineda, Gabriel Handog and Von Tablac in the absence of Splendido Taal leg winner Charles Serdenia and runner-up Zach Villaroman.

Competitors like Alexander Crisostomo, Santi Asuncion, Justin See, Harry Sales and Liam Sing are also ready to vie for the championship.

In the boys’ 8-10 division set over 36 holes, champion Ryuji Suzuki remains optimistic despite being unfamiliar with the bunker-laden layout.

“I haven’t played Pradera yet, but I’m confident I can win this week,” said Suzuki, who will be challenged by the likes of Vince Tablac, Theodore Rios, Zoji Edoc, Jose Luis Espinosa, Monte Andaman and Michael Ray Hortel II.

”I’ll enjoy the game without any expectations, though the first round will be a challenge since I haven’t had a practice round,” added Suzuki.

Girls’ 11-14 titlist Precious Zaragosa, for her part, has tempered expectations for a repeat due to a recent illness that limited her training and practice.

“I don’t have much confidence because I didn’t practice much while recovering,” said Zaragosa. “But I’ll do my best. Pradera Verde is a great course, but it’s different Splendido. It’s flat but challenging due to the bunkers and greens,” added Zaragosa, who is bracing for another spirited duel with twins Mona and Lisa Sarines, along with Levonne Talion, Ayesha Salino, Beatriz Lapuz and Althea Bañez.

Vito Sarines, meanwhile, is confident as he aims for back-to-back titles in the boys’ 11-14 competition spread over 54 holes, following a thrilling comeback at Splendido. However, his bid will be challenged by Race Manhit, Matthias Espina, Roman Ungco, Aenzo Sulaik, Jose Jacob Gomez and Gerard Handog, among others.

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