Jhonnel Ababa and Mhark Fernando hope to relive their glory days at Riviera as they headline the cast in the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic unfolding on Wednesday, October 16, at the challenging Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
With the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour big guns skipping this 72-hole championship to play in the Macau Open, also set this week, the battle for the top P450,000 prize is expected to be fierce among the likes of Ababa, Fernando and the top four in last week’s ICTSI Splendido Classic, led by first-time winner Elmer Saban, Cassius Casas, Dante Becierra and Gerald Rosales.
The event serves as the 13th leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and seventh tournament offering P2.5 million.
Focus will be on Ababa, who edged Casas by one to rule the 2011 edition of this event, one of the three titles he won en route to bagging the Best Player award.
The former amateur hotshot, however, went on a slump, going winless last season although he turned in a runner-up and third place finishes at ICTSI Calatagan and ICTSI John Hay, respectively, this year.
Fernando also won the ICTSI Riviera crown, as an amateur, in the inaugural season of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. in 2009, humbling three pros to become only the second amateur to win on the revival of the pro tour.
Rufino Bayron did the trick first in 2008, edging Jerome Delariarte in a playoff to capture the Valley leg of the ICTSI-PGT three-stage circuit that year.
Rosales is the other player who had triumphed in Riviera, winning the Philippine Open in 2000 before the former ace amateur shotmaker also went on a long spell due to injuries.
Meanwhile, the pros test the tough par-71 layout in today’s traditional pro-am tournament where they will team up with their amateur partners from the event’s chief backers, including Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp, BMW and Gergia Energy Foods.
Also tipped to contend is Saban, who showed up the fancied bets to reign at Splendido, along with Casas, Becierra, Bayron, and this year’s ICTSI Palos Verdes leg winner Michael Bibat along with Jerson Balasabas, Jun Bernis, Marvin Dumandan. Anthony Fernando, Zanie Boy Gialon, Charles Hong. Clyde Mondilla, Park Jun Song, Edward Reyes, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Japanese Tomo Yoshinaga.
Canlubang will host the penultimate leg on November 6-8 for the ICTSI Canlubang Golf Invitational before the circuit winds up again at Wack Wack for the ICTSI Wack Wack Championship on November 20 to 23.