The best and the brightest slug it out beginning today—all aiming for a hot start and the momentum in what promises to be an explosive launch to the new ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour season—the P3.5 million ICTSI Anvaya Cove Invitational at the Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club in Morong, Bataan.
They’re all here. From Order of Merit winner Miguel Tabuena to defending champion Angelo Que to former OOM champion Tony Lascuna and veteran campaigners Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Frankie Minoza, Mars Pucay and Cassius Casas to the young guns Clyde Mondilla, Keanu Jahns and Edward Reyes.
Put in the qualifiers from both the local and foreign elims and a host of lesser lights ready to steal the thunder from the big guns, the kick off leg of this year’s 15-stage circuit put up by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. could easily rank as a major championship from among the country’s premier golf tournaments.
Tabuena, the hottest player on the land today with a Philippine Open victory and a strong joint fourth place effort at Singapore Open last month, faces an early test of will as he drew Lascuna, Bayron and the long hitting Marvin Dumandan in one of the featured flights at 8:48 a.m. on No. 1.
Lascuna and Que, who tied for 38th with Tabuena in last week’s Myanmar Open, opted to skip yesterday’s traditional pro-am for the much-needed rest following a grueling two-week grind on the Asian Tour, eager to fuel their respective title campaigns with strong starts.
The 45-year-old Lascuña, the former three-time PGT OOM winner, is actually fighting off flu-like symptoms but confirmed he’ll play together with the former three-time Asian Tour winner Que.
“I hope to get better tomorrow (today) but I’ll be there,” said Lascuna, who played nine holes in Pampanga yesterday to hone up for the big event.
Que said he’ll be arriving today and vowed to join the 7:55 a.m. flight on No. 10 with Minoza, Michael Bibat and Japanese Toru Nakajima, a former leg winner in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. who topped the recent four-day Q-School at Royal Northwoods.
“I’ll play,” said Que, who set a course record 64 in the final round to beat Lascuna by three here last year.
Given the course condition, with the wind blowing from all over under intense heat, a host of unheralded but solid players could grab the spotlight from the fancied bets in the event backed by Adidas, TaylorMade, Pacsports Phils., Custom Clubmakers, KZG, Sharp and Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club.
“It will be a question of shotmaking and club selection,” said Casas, who will play alongside Pucay, Japanese Yuta Sudo and Artemio Murakami at 7:48 a.m. on No. 1.
Others vying for the top P650,000 purse are Charles Hong, Jhonnel Ababa, Arnold Villacencio, Robert Pactolerin, Mhark Fernando, Ferdie Aunzo, Richard Abaring, John Abdon, James Ryan Lam, Gerald Rosales, Rey Pagunsan, Zanieboy Gialon, Jun Bernis and Anthony Fernando and foreign bets Rick Gibson of Canada, Americas Daniel Inocencio, Dillon Soldwisch and Christopher Oetinger, Aussie Nathan Park, Koreans Lyu Hyung Suk, Seok Jun Min, Park Min Ung, Byun Jun Soo, Hwang Kang Youl.
Mhark Fernando served notice of his title bid as he steered his team composed of amateurs Luis Ramirez, Benigno Victorio and Rolen Paulino to pro-am victory with a 20-under 52, nipping Dumandan,with Bienvenido Perez, Jimmy Bustamante and Eimie Hedeager, in the count back. Ababa, with partners Fred Salonga, Mario Pangan and Alex Ong, placed third with a 53.