Cassius Casas sets out for a first back-to-back victory in a long, long while as he takes on the very same field he upstaged in Iloilo last week in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic, which gets on Wednesday, July 23, at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club in Bacolod City.
“It’s been a long time since I last won two-in-row. Hopefully, I can do it again this week,” said Casas after outdueling Elmer Salvador in a backside shootout to capture the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge crown by one last week.
Casas used to dominate the previous local tour but has never been among the consistent top finishers since International Container Terminal Services, Inc. put up the new local circuit in 2009, the victories rarely coming in as new faces emerge and competition becomes tougher and fiercer.
He did win the final leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour at Wack Wack last year and annex his second The Country Club Invitational crown last February. But the ace Davaoeno shotmaker struggled in the first eight legs of this year’s circuit until he was able to put it all together in Iloilo and won again.
“The field has become stronger the last few years and winning has become a lot tougher. But I’d like to believe that I still got what it takes to win,” said Casas.
Winning at the Marapara layout, however, will require a lot not only from Casas but from the rest of his challengers as well with its tree-lined, tight fairways and water hazards coming into play in almost all holes and the wind looming as the field’s worst challenge.
Zanie Boy Gialon nipped Tony Lascuna in a playoff to win the rain-shortened ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic in 2012 but the former has not figured in a title race since and the latter emerging as the dominant player the last two years by winning the Order of Merit crown.
Meanwhile, Casas, Lascuna, Gialon and Salvador test the NOGCC layout in tomorrow’s pro-am tournament where they will be paired with guests and amateur players of the event’s chief backers, including Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, FootJoy, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Callaway, Mizuno, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Sharp and KZG.
Lascuna actually struggled a bit in Iloilo but rallied to salvage joint fourth with Arnold Villacencio, a finish he said augured well for his bid to nail a third leg victory after ruling the ICTSI Eagle Ridge and Valley Golf stages.
“I had a good finish in Iloilo and hopefully I could cash in on that,” said Lascuna. “But it has become tougher to win again since the rest are working doubly hard to improve their chances.”
That makes the upcoming 72-hole championship, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. doubly interesting with Salvador also going all-out for a big rebound after falling short in Iloilo and a second leg win after beating an international field at ICTSI Riviera Classic.