The Philippine Golf Tour starts its grueling season-ending stretch down south Wednesday with top guns from talent-rich Mindanao, led by the veterans and rising stars from Davao and Del Monte eager to dominate in the ICTSI Pueblo de Oro Championship in Cagayan de Oro City.
Jay Bayron, Tony Lascuña, Jhonnel Ababa and Elmer Salvador along with Clyde Mondilla, Reymon Jaraula, Johvanie Abaño, Magno Arancon, Jelbert Gamolo and Noel Langamin set out for four days of battle of shotmaking and putting at the Pueblo de Oro layout expected to provide a different kind of challenge for the men of the tour coming off a punishing test at the tight Wack Wack East last week.
But dangers also lurk at Pueblo’s winding fairways, menacing bunkers and deep ravines with the wind expected to add up to the challenge, making the title chase in the P2.5 million event kicking off a four-leg Mindanao swing worth watching.
Del Monte will host the next stop on Sept. 18-21 while Davao takes its turn on Oct. 2-5 for the ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational before the ICTSI-sponsored circuit winds up its 10th season at the South Pacific Golf and Leisure Estates, also in Davao, on Oct. 9-12.
But Bayron, Mondilla and company also expect a fierce challenge from the rest of the 73-player field, including Ira Alido, former Phl Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas, Michael Bibat, Marvin Dumandan, Zanieboy Gialon, Keanu Jahns, Mars Pucay, Joenard Rates, Gerald Rosales and Rupert Zaragosa.
The young Alido, for one, is due for a breakthrough with the 18-year-old rising star vowing to come out stronger and a lot tougher after blowing his title bid at Aboitiz Invitational with a final round foldup.
Twenty-four foreign bets are also keen on spoiling the locals’ title bid in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., all ready to duplicate young Korean Kim Joo Young’s title run here last year, including Thai KammalasNamuangruk and Macedonia’s Peter Stojanovski.
Manila-based Dutch Guido Van der Valk also hopes to come up with a solid start to fuel his drive for a second leg win after topping the Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational of the four-leg Visayan swing last June.
Other foreign aces vying in the event, backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., are Koreans Jeong Jooan and Choi Sangrog, Spain’s Rafa Culla, Greg Gonzalez and Riley Keagle of the US, Japanese Kanata Nakagawa, Ryui Hashimoto and Makoto Iwasaki, Scots Julian Hood and Ryan Hood, Aussie Jack Lane-Weston, Argentina’s Emilio Parodi and Brunei’s Aslimon Qawin.
Still, focus will be on the region’s leading players, majority of whom are seeking redemption from a series of failed bids, including Bayron, who missed the cut at Wack Wack, multi-titled Lascuña, who remained winless in two years, and Mondilla, who hopes to mark his return from a long layoff with a podium finish.