The Philippine Masters, which used to be one of local version’s major championships, makes its long awaited return on the golfing calendar at its home at Villamor Golf Club next month with a crack international field tipped to see action.
Dubbed the ICTSI-Villamor Philippine Masters, the P2 million event set May 24 to 27 is expected to lure some of the region’s top and rising players since it will be held on the break of the Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour.
Cassius Casas last ruled the event in 2000 before golf took a major hit following the economic turmoil and the ban on tobacco sponsorship of sporting events.
But with ICTSI and Villamor finally staging the fabled event after a 17-year wait, it is expected to stay on the tour calendar as one of the highlight events of each Philippine Golf Tour.
“It’s very significant for the Philippine Masters to make its comeback in its original home,” said retired Col. Oscar Calingasan, now general manager of the Villamor Air Base Golf Club, during Monday’s launch.
Also present during the launch were Major Gen. Conrado Parra, Philippine Air Force vice commander and VABGC chairman; Narlene Soriano, executive director of PGT and ICTSI Public Relations head; Colo Ventosa, general manager of PGTI; and tournament director Luigi Tabuena.
The long and difficult course within the country’s premier air base has undergone a minor facelift, and is expected to provide serious challenge for the country’s top pros like Miguel Tabuena, Tony Lascuña and Jay Bayron.
Former Philippine Masters champions Frankie Miñoza and Robert Pactolerin are also expected to lend prestige to the P2 million tournament put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournament, Inc.
Pactolerin, who calls the Villamor course his home, said the long and narrow tree-lined course will provide problems even for the toughest professionals.
“You need to hit accurate drives or the trees will come into play. A tiny mistake here and you’re looking at a double or triple bogey,” said Pactolerin.
Ventosa said they expect a hundred professionals, mostly Filipinos, to see action. She added that invites have been sent out to foreign players, most those from Japan and South Korea.
“We at the PGTI have always wanted to have a tournament here at Villamor but unfortunately, the opportunity did not present itself until now. It is just fitting to hold a tournament here at Villamor as the PGTI moves to its tenth year,” said Soriano.
The Philippine Masters was born in 1975 with the legendary Ben Arda emerging as the inaugural champion. The event had gone on and off the local circuit until it was last staged in 2000 with Casas besting a tough international field.
The return of the Masters was formalized yesterday with the signing of the memorandum of agreement among officials of Villamor and the PGTI, capped by the raising of the VABGC and PGTI flags.
“This should kickstart the return of the Philippine Masters. The course is ready and prepared,” said Calingasan.
The winner in this Philippine Masters comeback earns P360,000.
“This is the recuperated and reinvigorated Philippine Masters. It was a crusade to bring it back to its home course. And now, the comeback is within our grasp,” said Parra.
The PAF vice commander thanked the PGTI for being part of the event and sharing Villamor’s goal to bring the Philippine Masters back to life.
“With the PGTI, we are sure that the Philippine Masters is in good hands,” he said.