A crew of young turks, including locals who could well represent the future of Philippine pro golf, sets out for an early impact in their first foray in the big league as they vie in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic presented by MORE Power beginning Wednesday at the Marapara Golf and Country Club in Bacolod.
Former national team standouts Gab Manotoc, Kristoffer Arevalo, and Jonas Magcalayo, along with Russell Bautista, Josh Jorge, Leandro Bagtas and Elee Bisera expect a rocky start to their pro debuts but all hope to rise to the challenge and give their respective new careers a shot in the arm.
Hyun Ho Rho actually heads a mix of young and seasoned campaigners who made the grade in the recent Philippine Golf Tour Q-School in this week’s P2.25 million championship with the 18-year-old Korean also to be sized up by the elite field after bagging the medal honors in the four-day elims at Splendido Taal.
But while these new kids on the block pack the power and skills needed to pose a threat, the veterans – with their experience and sheer talent – are still tipped to dominate the 72-hole championship put up by ICTSI, which ushers in the new PGT season.
They include multi-titled Tony Lascuña, Clyde Mondilla, Jhonnel Ababa and Jay Bayron with former Order of Merit champion Jobim Carlos and leg winners Reymon Jaraula, Michael Bibat, Zanieboy Gialon and Ira Alido and legend Frankie Miñoza beefing up the cast.
But focus will surely be on Manila-based Dutch Guido van der Valk, whose two victories in the seven-leg PGT edition last year and a dominant title run in last month’s The Country Club Invitational easily make him the marked player in the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized championship.
Still, the rest from the 67-player men’s field have toughened up for this year’s tour, including local hero and many-time Philippine Masters champion Robert Pactolerin, whose local knowledge of the tight, tree-lined layout likewise makes him a top contender.
Meanwhile, the title chase in the Ladies PGT, to be held simultaneously with the men’s tournament, is also expected to head to an interesting finish with amateurs Rianne Malixi and Mafy Singson back in the hunt against the likes of Chanelle Avaricio, Daniella Uy, Sunshine Baraquiel, Marvi Monsalve, Gretchen Villacencio and reigning OOM winner Chihiro Ikeda.
Also ready and eager to do battle are two comebacking aces in Bacolod native Mia Piccio and Cyna Rodriguez, a former three-time OOM titlist, along with Laurea Duque, Sarah Ababa, Florence Bisera, Kristine Fleetwood, Apple Fudolin, Lovelynn Guioguio, Majorie Pulumbarit and Pamela Mariano.