Jhonnel Ababa is unfazed by Clyde Mondilla’s surge and exudes confidence as he sets out for the P2.5 million ICTSI Calatagan Golf Challenge beginning today at the Calatagan Golf Club in Batangas.
Back on the course he calls home, he said he has the edge among the 82-player international field on the rolling, tight layout, notwithstanding his eight-shot defeat to Mondilla here last year.
“I have the edge here since I’m very familiar with the course,” said Ababa, out to snap a long title spell on the Philippine Golf Tour on a course where he honed his talent and skills during his amateur days.
“There are reachable but tricky holes and some may think twice to attack them. But I will always go for it,” said Ababa. “More importantly, I feel good and I know I can beat anybody here, even Mondilla or (Tony) Lascuña.”
He’ll be tested right on the opening round as he drew Mondilla and veteran Mars Pucay in the 7:30 a.m. flight on No. 10 with Mondilla also brimming with confidence coming off back-to-back victories at Southwoods and Villamor last month.
The Del Monte ace has also looked forward to playing at Calatagan again where he posted a 17-under 271 to rout the field last year.
“I’m so excited to be playing again here. Calatagan is one of my favorite courses,” said Mondilla, who beat Lascuña and Miguel Tabuena by one at the ICTSI Southwoods Championship and edged Ababa, Lascuña and American Nicolas Paez, also by one, in the Philippine Masters revival.
That should make Round 1 of the P2.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI worth watching with Lascuña also hoping for a good start against fellow Davaoeños Cassius Casas and Rufino Bayron in the 7:50 a.m. group, also on No. 10.
“I have prepared hard for this event which also serves as my tune-up for a big tournament in Thailand next week. I just hope my putting will click in all four days to have another chance (for the title),” said Lascuña, seeking a follow-up to his Manila Masters romp at Eastridge last April.
Mhark Fernando and Jerson Balasabas, the two other club bets, are also expected to be in the early hunt for the top P450,000 purse in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with the former starting out ahead of Ababa and Mondilla’s group at 7:20 a.m. with Jun Bernis and Elmer Salvador and the latter grouped with Paez and Dutch Guido Van der Valk in the 8:20 a.m. flight, also at the back.
Also tipped to contend in the event, backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT, are veterans Jay Bayron, Rey Pagunsan, Gerald Rosales and Orlan Sumcad along with young guns Jobim Carlos, Justin Quiban and Keanu Jahns and Aussies Nathan Park and Jason Dawes, Koreans Park Jun Sung and Hong Soon Hyup, Americans Elliot Hume, Lexus Keoninh and Paul Harris, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski and Scott Secord of Canada.