Clyde Mondilla has spent the last three weeks enhancing his driving and short game in preparation for what promises to be a slam-bang duel of power and iron play in The Country Club Invitational firing off March 4 at the TCC course in Laguna.
The Del Monte star actually kicked off the new season with a stirring victory in the Philippine Golf Tour Asia at Pradera Verde last month, rallying from five down in regulation and coming out triumphant of the most crowded playoff battle (five) in PGT and PGTA history. But heading to the P5 million event, he said he would need more than momentum given an elite roster of rivals and a dreaded course.
“I like my chances but it isn’t that great since there are so many strong players around,” said Mondilla. “The course is also very challenging, tough.”
He said the big hitters have the slight edge at the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout although he stressed a lot of factors will also have to be considered owing to the course’s hazards, roughs and sleek putting surface with the wind also likely to come into play in all four days of the event put up by ICTSI president/chairman Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo.
That should give the likes of veterans Jay Bayron, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat and Jerson Balasabas and young turks Ira Alido, James Ryan Lam and Reymon Jaraula some kind of an edge along with American Lexus Keoninh and Marcos Pastor of Spain for their length off the tee.
But that doesn’t relegate the others to the background in pursuit of the top P1.5 million purse with Tony Lascuña expected to bank on his superb short game and putting to offset his lack of distance. The 49-year-old multi-titled Davaoeño is also coming into the event brimming with confidence after regaining his Asian Tour card two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Joenard Rates joins the select roster made up of the top 30 players in last year’s PGT Order of Merit ranking vice Elmer Saban, who pulled out of the event the other day. Others in the fold are Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands, Kei Matsuoka of Japan, Rufino Bayron, Nilo Salahog, Richard Sinfuego, James Ryan Lam, Fidel Concepcion, Rico Depilo, Albin Engino, Rene Menor, Paul Echavez, Mhark Fernando, Gerald Rosales and Art Arbole.
The TCC Invitational will usher in the new PGT season, which is marking its new decade of providing top-notch tournaments for the country’s top and rising pros with the PGT Qualifying School for local and foreign players slated March 9-13 at Splendido Taal Golf Club.
Action resumes in the ICTSI Summit Point Challenge on March 25-28, to be followed by the Delimondo National Pro-Am on May 11-16, also at Splendido, and the ICTSI Royal Northwoods Challenge on May 26-29 in San Rafael, Bulacan.