The local top guns brace for another four-day battle of shotmaking and putting against an elite foreign field but remain upbeat of their chances to score a repeat on the Philippine Golf Tour Asia which resumes Wednesday with the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
Former PGT Order of Merit winner Miguel Tabuena ruled the kickoff leg of the region’s newest circuit at Southwoods last August then Rene Menor scored a career breakthrough at Splendido via a playoff win over Thai Pasavee Lertvilai and John Michael O’Toole of the US last September. Clyde Mondilla, this year’s PGT OOM champion, topped the Riviera stop before multi-titled Tony Lascuña rallied to snare the ICTSI Wack Wack Championship two weeks ago.
While Tabuena won’t be around to shoot for another crown on a course he calls home to compete abroad, a slew of local aces will be on hand to man the fort, including the three other PGTA winners along with Zanieboy Gialon, Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Michael Bibat and Jhonnel Ababa.
A host of young Filipino talents are also expected to figure prominently in the chase for the top P17,500 purse in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. They include Jobim Carlos, Ira Alido, Keanu Jahns and Justin Quiban, who had held his own against the veteran campaigners and turned in impressive finishes in the last two big international tournaments here.
The Tarlac layout is also expected to challenge the field’s skills again the way it did when it hosted the ICTSI Luisita Championship last May where Tabuena charged back from seven down in the final round then edged South African Mathiam Keyser in the playoff.
The wooded, tight layout also boasts of elegant-looking bunkers with the water hazards coming into play in all 12 holes, including the signature No. 17 with a huge lake guarding the frontside.
Meanwhile, the upcoming tournament, backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., has lured an early roster of 104 players from 17 countries, including seven each from Australia and the US.
Indonesian Andrew Ian, who placed third in the first leg at Southwoods, is also back in the hunt along with Thais Wisut Artjanawat and Lertvilai, England’s Grant Jackson, Spain’s Salvador Paya Vila and Macedonian Peter Stojanovski.
Meanwhile, the traditional pro-am tournament will be held Tuesday with a select group of pros teaming up with amateurs and guest from the event’s chief backers.