Eleven Koreans banner the strong 26-player foreign contingent setting out to break into the stranglehold of the local aces when the P3.5 million ICTSI Manila Masters is fired off beginning today at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal.
Park Jun Hyeok put on a sizzling windup to finish second to Tony Lascuña at ICTSI Luisita Championship last month with the Korean shotmaker hopeful of turning in a strong start and a stronger finish to build some momentum for another crack at the crown.
The foreign bets have gained grounds on the local players with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Japanese Toru Nakajima finishing tied for fourth at ICTSI Anvaya Cove Invitational won by Miguel Tabuena and Park stringing a 67 and 65 in the final two rounds to snatch runner-up honors at Luisita.
Although the Asian Development Tour regulars dominated the ICTSI Manila Southwoods leg ruled by Gavin Green of Australia last month, Nakajima placed second to Swede Oscar Zetterwall and Van der Valk tied for sixth at ICTSI Sherwood Classic.
Though Nakajima won’t be around to reinforce the foreign bets’ challenge in the 72-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., the likes of young Park Min Ung, Park Jun Song, Park Chan Jung, Min Jun Seok, Chang Chang Guo, Hong Soon Hyup, Hwang Soon Hyup, Kim Chang Hoi, Kim Chang Yeon and Kim In Jae are in the fold, ready to do backstop their compatriot’s bid against the cream of the country’s cop.
Van der Valk is also due for a big finish along with Sam Ayotte, Daniel Inocencio, Dylan Jackson, John Jackson, Dillon Soldwisch and Chris Oetinger of the US, and Ausies Nelson Turner, Ben Ratcliffe, Nathan Park and Kevin Marques.
Some of the foreign bets will be among a select group of pros vying in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament along with the guests and officials of the event’s chief backers, including Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Defending champion Angelo Que, Miguel Tabuena and Lascuna remain the favorites to slug it out for the top P650,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Cassius Casas, Mars Pucay, Mhark Fernando and Clyde Mondilla alsos tipped to contend for the crown.
Rookie pros Jobim Carlos and Justin Quiban are also expected to be in the mix with the veteran campaigners with the former hoping to ride the crest of his stirring 64 finish at ADT Sherwood and the latter out to recall the form that netted him an impressive joint third place finish with Que at Luisita.