PH upbeat as Asia-Pacific Seniors unwraps

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Team Philippines kicks off its campaign in the 2016 Asia-Pacific Senior Amateur Championship beginning today, hoping to gain an early boost and momentum with a strong start at the Alabang Golf Club in Muntinlupa.

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Benjie Sumulong, Mari Hecha­nova, Richie Garcia, Abe Avena, Rolly Viray and Alan Alegre try to bank on their local knowledge of the tricky layout in their bid to break into a projected Australia-New Zealand title clash and reclaim the crown the country won when it last hosted the event at Mt. Malarayat in 2007.

Sumulong spearheads the host’s drive at 9 a.m. against David Cherry of Australia, Tomio Otomo of Japan and Yangkwon Kim of Korea while Hechanova joins Gordon Claney of Australia John Ball of Hong Kong and Michael Barltrop of New Zealand in the 9:10 a.m. flight.

Garcia tees off next at 9.20 a.m. against Lionel Berruti of Switzerland, Ian Frost of Australia and Andrew Mc Kechnie of New Zealand, while Avena launches his bid against Amith Luthra of India, Frank Borren of New Zealand and Kab Soo Lee of Hong Kong at 9:30 a.m.

Viray slugs it out with Anthony Taylor of Hong Kong, Willie Ong of Singapore and Sanjay Kolhatkar of India at 9:40 a.m. while Alegre anchors Team Phl’s campaign against Kuwalkii To of Hong Kong, Muhammad Khan of Pakistan and Dadi Toka of Papua New Guinea at 10:20 a.m.

With the format shifting from three-to-play, two-to-count, when the Phl reigned at Malarayat, to six-to-play, four-to-count format, the hosts feel to have the edge owing not only to their skills and talent but also to their familiarity with the layout.

But Australia and New Zealand are keen on keeping their domination of the annual event, sanctioned by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, which features the top golfing seniors in the region. The Aussies and the Kiwis have lorded it over the field the last eight years with the former winning five.

But New Zealand has won two of the last three, including last year’s edition of the event, hosted and co-organized by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, San Miguel Corp., Cleveland, Srixon, the Philippine Sports Commission, Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, and the Department of Tourism.

Aside from Frost and Claney, other members of Team Australia are Peter Hannah, Greg Rhodes, Stefan Albinski and Steve Toyne while Martin Webber, Reg Fleet and John Batley join Borren, Barltrop and Mc Kechnie in the NZ roster.

Meanwhile, Takeshi Kamei will lead last year’s runner up Japan’s bid along with Otomo, Satoshi Hato, Kiyoshi Miyamoto and Tomoyuki Yoshida while Korea will be led by Junkee Lee, Changho Baek, Kuong Oh, Heongsoo Jang, Hyungsik Yoon and Kim.

Other teams vying in the championship, which also features the individual competition and the international team event, are Bangladesh, England, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United States.

Also on tap is the individual competition in Group A (55-59) – 14.4; Group B (60-64) – 16.4; Group C (65-69) – 18.4; and Group D (70 and above) – no limit.

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