Held back by Taal Volcano’s eruption last week, the Philippine Golf Tour Asia brings the circuit to Central Luzon beginning Tuesday (Jan. 21) with a stellar international field ready and raring to slug it out for top honors in the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic in Lubao, Pampanga.
A power duel looms among the tour’s big hitters given the width and length of the Pradera layout spruced up to championship form in time for the event serving as one of the last two legs of the milestone third season of the region’s emerging circuit that spilled over to 2020.
The PGTA was actually set to hold the last two tournaments at Eagle Ridge in Gen. Trias, Cavite but the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. called it off last week to ensure the safety and health of the participants, caddies and other personnel due to volcanic ash.
But the delay and the transfer of the event to another venue only make the field eager to mix it up, guaranteeing a slam-bang start to the $100,000 championship put up by ICTSI and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
Frontrunner Tony Lascuña, for one, goes all out for a victory as he zeroes in on his first PGTA Order of Merit title with second-running Aussie Tim Stewart, who ruled the CAT Open leg at Luisita last Oct., opting to skip the event.
But defending OOM champion and third-running Clyde Mondilla is in the fold, along with the other local aces, including last year’s Pradera champion Jhonnel Ababa and other leg winners Jobim Carlos, Jay Bayron, James Ryan Lam and Aussie Damien Jordan.
Former amateur hotshot Lloyd Go is also in the list as one of the invitees who include Japanese Toru Nakajima and Yuta Sudo, Aussie Joe Knox, Finland’s Sean Avellan, Korean Lee Sangun, and Americans Sydney Chung and Jeremy Wendelken.
Other foreign tipped to contend for the top $17,500 purse are Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Josh Salah, George Twyman, Charles Lee and Lexus Keoninh of the US, Aussies Jack Lane-Weston and Fidel Concepcion, Spain’s Marcos Pastor and Salvador Paya Vila, Japanese Keita Sudo, Koreans Seok Jun Min and Shin Seung Woo, Thai Pachara Sakulyong, Venezuelan Rafael Parra and Scotland’s Julian Hood and Ryan Hood.
Boosting the local challenge are Michael Bibat, Jerson Balasabas, Elmer Salvador, Reymon Jaraula, Ira Alido, Justin Quiban, Rufino Bayron, Mars Pucay, Nilo Salahog, Gerald Rosales, Mhark Fernando, Anthony Fernando and Arnold Villacencio.
Juvic Pagunsan, who won the last PGTA leg at Summit Point via playoff over Lascuña last Oct to move to No. 6 in the OOM derby., has also begged off from participating due to injury.