Rupert Zaragosa braces for a spirited battle for top honors against a slew of rising stars, including a Korean and a young Japanese, as the 2016 Philippine Amateur Open Match Play Golf Championship gets going today at the Orchard Golf and Country Club in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Zaragosa primed up for the event with a dominant performance in the special 18-and-above class of the Philippine Junior Amateur Open Golf Championship (Strokeplay) two weeks ago, posting a 14-stroke romp over Airon Sorino at Sherwood Hills Golf Club.
Tom Kim ruled the main event in come-from-behind fashion as the young Korean shotmaker playing out of Riviera likewise heads to this week’s event, sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, PLDT and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and hosted by Ochard Golf and Country Club, brimming with confidence and riding the momentum of his two-stroke victory over Ryan Monsalve.
But focus will also be on Japanese Yuto Katsuragawa, who bagged back-to-back low amateur honors in the Asian Development Tour and ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour events at Manila Southwoods and Sherwood Hills the last two weeks.
That guarantees a fierce duel for top honors in the men’s division of the week-long event organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and held as PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour.
Marc Ong nipped Aidric Chan while Harmie Constantino defeated Sam Bruce to capture last year’s crown but the Singaporean backed out at the last minute while Constantino begged off due to academic commitments.
But this year’s field remains as deep as ever with Zaragosa, winner of the first MVPSF Visayas Regional Match Play recently, and Kim sizing up each other early in the 8 a.m. flight on No. 1 with Don Petil and Ira Alido at the start of the 36-hole stroke play elims. The top 32 will advance to the knockout phase starting Wednesday.
The Manila Southwoods-based Katsuragawa, on the other hand, tees off in the next group at 8:10 a.m. in the company of Lanz Atienza Uy, Nico Sevilla and Paqo Barro, while Monsalve starts ahead of Zaragosa and Kim at 7:50 a.m. along with Gabriel Manotoc, Luigi Guerrero and Peter Po.
Others tipped to contend for berths in the match play phase are Noel Langamin, Ace Stehmeier, Jolo Macalayo, Basti Lorenzo, Inigo Raymundo, Carlo Villaroman, Jelbert Gamolo, Ivan Monsalve and Jan Philip De Claro.
The battle in the women’s side is also expected to be keen with Korean Hwang Min Jeong, winner of a ladies pro crown last year, heading the compact field that includes Jona Magcalayo, Kristine Torralba, Nikki Bruce, Sam Bruce, Eagle Ace Superal, and fellow Koreans Koh Euna and Yun Ji Jang.
Also on tap is the seniors division featuring the likes of Lino Magpantay, Rolly Viray, Rupert Bayucot, Alan Alegre, Ricardo Loyolo and NGAP secretary-general Pepot Inigo.