A slew of Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour campaigners signed up for the Solaire Philippine Open, firming up the stellar cast headed by the country’s leading players in the $350,000 event unfolding March 2 at the tough The Country Club course in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Pachara Khongwatmai, Jazz Janewattananon, Panuphol Pittayarat and Rattanon Wannasrichan of Thailand, Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh and Brazilian Adilson Da Silva, among the Top 25 in the early Asian Tour Order of Merit ranking, and ADT top players Brett Munson of the US, Panuwat Muenlek of Thailand, Malaysian Arie Irawan and American John Catlin all brace for a spirited chase for top honors in Asia’s oldest national Open.
Other ace shotmakers in the early roster are Sam Chien of the US, Nicolas Fung and Gavin Green of Malaysia, Himmat Rai of India, Scott Barr, Unho Park and Scott Hend of Australia, Michael Tran of Vietnam, and Thais Thaworn Wiratchant, Thammanoon Sriroj, Chawalit Plaphol, Poom Saksansin.
The country’s premier golf championship has lured some of the region’s top players owing to a break in the Asian Tour and ADT calendar with the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and sponsoring Solaire Resort and Casino guaranteeing four days of top notch action over a long, windy course refurbished to PGA standard.
Although the field is expected to come into the event in top form, a wild, wooly finish is seen given the playing condition at TCC, which yielded just one under-par score and 13-over winning total posted by Miguel Tabuena in the recent TCC Invitational which marked its return to hosting big-time tournaments after undergoing a major facelift for two years.
Tabuena, who rallied from five down to edge Juvic Pagunsan by one last week, will lead the local challenge along with Angelo Que, Tony Lascuña, Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Frankie Miñoza, Clyde Mondilla, Jhonnel Ababa, Arnold Villacencio, Orlan Sumcad, Cassius Casas and Pagunsan.
“While the locals have the so-called local knowledge, the foreign players are also used to playing in such tough condition, thus making it not just a battle of shotmaking but also of wits and mental toughness,” said Solaire Resort and Casino president and chief operating officer Thomas Arasi.
The blue-ribbon event actually serves as a preview of the Solaire Philippine Open’s grand centennial staging in 2018.
The National Golf Association of the Philippines, the governing body of golf in the country, has given the PGTI, which also organizes the annual ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour and the Ladies PGT, the rights to hold the next two Philippine Open with Solaire as title sponsor.
Others vying for the crown are Thais Sutijet Kooratanapisan, Rathhee Sirithankunsak and Arnond Vongvanij, Taiwanese Huang Chi, Yeh Chang Ting, Chiang Chen Chi, Tseng Hong Sheng and Lien Lu Sen, Lindsay Renolds of Canada, Irishman Niall Turner, Dodge Kemmer and Sam Cyr of the US, James Byrne of Scotland, Hu Mu of China and South African Mathiam Keyser.