Ranged against a team boasting of some of the country’s top guns, Team North brims with confidence heading to its sixth faceoff with its South counterpart next week, wary but upbeat of its chances for a repeat in The Duel – North vs South unfolding Nov. 13 at Sta. Elena Golf Club.
The Northerners rode on a big start in team play in the first two days of last year’s edition of the country’s version of the Ryder Cup then held sway in the singles to pound out a three-point win, pulling the team on track for a crack at levelling up their series at three wins apiece.
“I’m confident about our chances this year,” said North coach Cookie La’O, who hopes to draw the best again from his fired-up crew which upstaged its fancied rivals at John Hay last year, led by veterans Jobim Carlos, Justin Quiban, James Ryan Lam, Michael Bibat, Mars Pucay, Joenard Rates and Gerald Rosales, rising stars Ira Alido and Keanu Jahns along wit Jun Bernis, Fidel Concepcion and Eric Gallardo.
“We have a great mix of veterans and a new generation. We might have an advantage with our length off the tee at Sta. Elena but then again it will be pretty tight as South is loaded with talents as always,” said La’O.
“But for sure, it’ll be an exciting week,” he added.
It should be.
Team South, for one, is itching to reassert its mastery over the North side, which it dominated in the third and fourth editions of the event put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. in 2012 as a side event to the then fledgling local circuit and now a biennial affair among the top players in the Philippine Golf Order of Merit ranking after each season.
Like La’O, South coach Charles Hong believes his side has the tools to get back at North and reclaim the crown with Clyde Mondilla, Tony Lascuña and Jhonnel Ababa to anchor their title drive along with Jerson Balasabas, Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Albin Engino, Pueblo de Oro leg champion Reymon Jaraula, Zanieboy Gialon, Arnold Villacencio, Nilo Salahog and Rene Menor.
The fielding of pairings will be crucial for both coaches with each side wanting to cash in on whatever edge one pairing would have against the other, thus guaranteeing an unpredictable clash of power and wits in the three-day event held for the first time at the posh Sta. Elena layout.
Play will be the four-ball (better ball) and foursomes (alternate shot) in the first two days with the deciding singles set in the final day on Nov. 15, 12 matches tipped to go all the way down to the last pairing.