Miguel Tabuena and Mars Pucay return to ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour action this week, completing a stellar cast in the P1 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship which gets going off on Wednesday at Del Monte Golf Club in Bukidnon.
Tabuena, runaway winner of this year’s kickoff leg at ICTSI Sherwood but a sorry playoff loser at John Hay last April, is raring to get back in the local title hunt following a strong joint fifth place finish in the Templer Park Masters of the Asian Development Tour in Malaysia last week.
Pucay, seeking to snap a year-long victory drought after topping the ICTSI Iloilo leg last year, also saw action in Kuala Lumpur where he wound up 11th. Like Tabuena, the smooth-swinging shotmaker is also out to contend for the crown at Del Monte, which last hosted the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit in 2011.
But the duo will be facing a star-studded field that includes reigning Order of Merit champion and ICTSI Calatagan leg winner Tony Lascuna, John Hay stage champion Jay Bayron, and last week’s Palos Verdes leg winner Michael Bibat, guaranteeing another wide open battle for the top P200,000 purse in the 54-hole tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
The leading pros, meanwhile, test the par-72 mountain-top layout in today’s traditional pro-am tournament as they team up with officials and guests of the event’s chief backers, including Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.
While Tabuena, Lascuna, Bayron and Bibat chase their second titles in this second of three stops of the circuit’s Mindanao swing, a slew of others are out to nail their first win in the season, including former OOM winner Elmer Salvador, 2011 three-leg winner Jhonnel Ababa, Rufino Bayron, Ferdie Aunzo, Mhark Fernando, last year first-time champions Carl Santos-Ocampo and Charles Hong, Rey Pagunsan, local bet Clyde Mondilla and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Cassius Casas and Richard Sinfuego are also out on separate missions—the former hoping to score a repeat after snatching the Del Monte leg crown and the latter seeking redemption after blowing what had appeared to be a won tournament in 2011.
Sinfuego had the lead going to the last hole but blew it— and the title—after he was disqualified, along with two others, on a final hole infraction, enabling Casas, then running fourth, to snatch the crown.
Focus will also be on local hero Frankie Miñoza, who is also coming off a joint fourth finish at Palos Verdes with the veteran campaigner and winner of this yeaer’s The Country Club Invitational expected to flash his familiarity with the layout where he practically grew up.