Shelved for the second time in the last four years, the Philippine Open gears up for a grand comeback in March 2017 with Solaire Resort and Casino coming in as the new sponsor and chief backer of the country’s premier golf championship.
The event, also Asia’s oldest National Open, will be played March 2 to 5 at the newly-refurbished The Country Club in Laguna with the local aces, led by former champions Miguel Tabuena, Angelo Que and Frankie Miñoza and local circuit’s Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuña, expected to slug it out with a crack international field.
However, the $350,000 event, which used to be the kickoff leg of the Asian Tour, will not be a part of the region’s premier circuit next year.
But the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. has guaranteed an elite cast of 120-130 international players to clash for top honors in the 72-hole championship, including the leading players on the Asian Tour.
“The Philippine Open, with its great lore and history, will always be one of our premier golfing events and we are honored to be the title sponsor and chief backer of the Open that has lured the best and the brightest not only from the region but also from other parts of the world,” said Ricky Razon, chairman of Solaire operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp., PGTI, and port operator and International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“It is a pleasure to sponsor not only the country’s premier championship but also Asia’s oldest National Open and we assure everyone that this is one PH Open to remember,” said Solaire Resort and Casino president/COO Thomas Arasi during yesterday’s event launch at Solaire Eclipse. “Golf in this part of the world has grown rapidly and the upcoming Open will surely benefit not only the Filipino players but also the rest of the international field as they continue to strive to improve.”
The National Golf Association of the Philippines, the governing body of golf in the country, has given the PGTI, which also organizes the annual ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, the rights to hold the 99th and 100th Philippine Open in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
ICTSI has been a chief PH Open backer in the past. In fact, it supported the last Open at Luisita in 2015 as presentor with Tabuena ruling the event reduced to 54 holes. Like in 2013, the PH Open was shelved this year due to lack of sponsors.
“I’m sure the pros will have a blast playing in The County Club and I can’t wait till next year. I’ll make sure I’m ready to defend my trophy,” said Tabuena, who won the last Philippine Open, his first, in 2015 at Luisita.
Two-time winner Miñoza also vowed to contend for the title in the $350,000 tournament.
“I will give a challenge in the 2017 Philippine Open,” said the veteran shotmaker and former Asia’s No. 1
Solaire has actually hosted an Asian Tour event in 2014 with Canadian Richard Lee besting a tough field to reign at the posh The Country Club in Laguna and Clyde Mondilla and Tabuena emerging as the top Filipino finishers at seventh.
“We are proud to remain at the heart of the historic moments of Asia’s oldest National Open and we will continue to support PH golf in our commitment and desire to produce world class players, not only in the men’s ranks but also in the ladies side,” said Razon.
Meanwhile, the TCC, which underwent a major facelift the past year, is expected to provide a true test of golf for the competing field with no distinct advantage among foreign aces and their local counterparts.
It could also be a survival of the fittest what with the terrors lurking on its sleek putting surface, unsettling water hazards and deep roughs not to mention the dreaded wind that alter the character of the holes in an instant.
These elements will surely make the TCC tougher and the battle for top honors fiercer in the storied Open that has produced many worthy champions, including Australia’s Peter Thomson, Lu Lian-huang and Hsieh Min-nan of Chinese Taipei, Mardan Mamat of Singapore and local stars Miñoza, Que, Larry Montes, Celestino Tugot, Ben Arda and Luis “Golem” Silverio, who won as an amateur in 1966.