The men of the tour take another break from their battle for individual honors as they clash in The Duel – North vs South, pitting the aces from Luzon against the top guns from Visayas and Mindanao beginning Wednesday at Camp John Hay Golf Club in Baguio City.
Team South dominated the singles, 9-3, and rallied to foil North, 12 1/2-11 1/2, in the last Duel at Wack Wack in 2015 and retain the crown in the Ryder Cup-style event held to further foster camaraderie among the country’s leading players from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The top 28 players in the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit rankings will make up the two teams, including two alternates from each side, in the three-day tournament sponsored by ICTSI.
Reigning OOM champion and current leader Tony Lascuña and No. 2 Clyde Mondilla banner Team South seeking a third straight championship and fourth overall in the fifth staging of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Miguel Tabuena, on the other hand, will lead Team North that also includes young guns Jobim Carlos, Justin Quiban, Ira Alido and Keanu Jahns, all hard-pressed to stop the talent-laden South squad and score a follow-up to their first and only win in 2013.
The Foursomes (alternate shot) matches will kick off The Duel on Wednesday then play shifts to four-ball (best ball) Thursday with the deciding singles (12 matches) set Friday.
“I think our chance to score a three-peat is very strong,” said Lascuña, who has posted two leg victories after 8 legs of the current season. “But John Hay could offer a different kind of challenge, particularly on our short game and putting.”
He added that they have to keep the tee shots in play and stay patient on the up-and-down tricky layout.
Aside from Lascuña and Mondilla, the two hottest players on the tour today, coach Charles Hong also boasts of Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Zanieboy Gialon, Orlan Sumcad, Jhonnel Ababa, Jessie Balasabas, Cassius Casas, Rufino Bayron, Rene Menor and Mhark Fernando with Marvin Dumandas as assistant coach.
But Team North, under coach Artemio Murakami with Miko Alejandro as assistant, is out to stop its counterpart’s domination although it must draw the best in team play and individual skills from Benjie Magada, Joenard Rates, Randy Garalde, James Ryan Lam, Mars Pucay, Michael Bibat and Gerald Rosales.
Team South ruled the event’s inaugurals via a 16-12 decision but the North squad fought back with a thrilling 14 1/2-13 1/2 win the following year in a duel marred by South spearhead Juvic Pagunsan’s sudden withdrawal.
The opening Foursomes, featuring six matches, will be played on July 5 with the Fourball, also a six-match event, will be held on July 6. The deciding singles, featuring 12 matches, will be staged on July 7.