Unless the local aces stand and deliver, a China-Taiwan duel looms when the $80,000 ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters is fired off on Thursday at The Country Club in Laguna.
Forty-five of the leading China LPGA campaigners, headed by Malaysian Michelle Koh, Thai Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng and Rebecca Tsai of Chinese Taipei, and 29 Taiwan LPGA frontrunners, including Ai Chen Kuo, Tzu-Chi Lin and Ching Huang, are raring to get going in pursuit of the crown in the biggest, richest ladies tournament in the country.
They make up the bulk of the 99-player field in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI with the hosts, though outnumbered and hard-pressed to come up with a strong showing, ready to slug it out with the best in one of the country’s toughest courses.
Koh and Wirairungrueng have posted one victory and three top 10 finishes each in the CLPGA while Tsai is also looking for a second win in the season about to end. Huang, meanwhile, is currently at No. 10 in the TLPGA with Lin and Kuo at No. 15 and 19, respectively.
With six top 10 efforts in the CLPGA, Tiranan Yoopan and Renuka Suksukont,of Thailand are also tipped to figure in the title hunt along with Taiwanese Hsieh Yu Ling, China’s Yunjie Zhang, Tao Juanjuan, Jiayi Zhou and Liu Yan, Korean Jang So Young and Thais Saraporn Chamchoi and Kusuma Meechai.
They test the TCC one last time in today’s (Wednesday) pro-am tournament where they will be paired with the amateurs and guests of the event’s chief backers, including Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.
Meanwhile, the locals hope to cash in on whatever edge they have with regard to local knowledge although no player could boast of such an advantage at TCC for its unpredictability with the wind coming into play in almost all holes.
Symetra Tour campaigners Princess Superal and Cyna Rodriguez, who trained and honed their skills at the TCC during their checkered amateur careers, banner the locals’ bid along with rookie Pauline del Rosario, winner of four of the last six legs of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
But focus remains on the Chinese and Taiwanese, who are all coming into the event, co-organized by the LPGT, CLPGA and TLPGA, in top shape following a series of tournaments in their respective circuits the last few months.