At least six of the country’s leading players, including winners of two of the first five legs of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour, are back to anchor a power-packed cast girding up for battle in the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge blasting off Tuesday (June 6) at the Valley Golf Club South course in Antipolo.
Ira Alido and Tony Lascuña, who topped the Bacolod and Caliraya Springs legs, respectively, resume their hunt for a second victory, along with Iloilo runaway winner Rupert Zaragosa, as they re-join the P2 million championship, which also welcomes the return of multi-titled Clyde Mondilla, Zanieboy Gialon, Angelo Que and Justin Quiban.
Alido, Mondilla, Que and Quiban vied in the Asian Development Tour in Thailand, while Lascuna and Gialon are coming off stints in the Taiwan PGA Tour, their presence in the upcoming event stirring up play and guaranteeing another gripping finish the way the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters was decided last week.
Jhonnel Ababa came from behind to upstage Guido van der Valk and Joenard Rates, snatching a one-stroke victory on the final hole as the three-time PGT Asia winner ended a four-year title spell in the circuit put up by ICTSI.
But while Ababa earned the confidence and the proverbial momentum needed to spike one’s title bid on a demanding course as Valley, Alido, Lascuna and the four other returnees have all gained added exposure and experience which they expect to brandish at Valley.
Also back on Tour are Lloyd Go, Sean Ramos, Gen Nagai, Kristoffer Arevalo and Leandro Bagtas with top amateurs Aidric Chan, Carl Corpuz, Kirby Lachica and Marvin Mendoza beefing up the cast as Tour invitees.
Valley Golf’s hosting of a PGT leg for the first time in nine years also adds to the challenge although the men of the tour are all in competitive form after five legs in Bacolod, Iloilo, Caliraya, Luisita and Villamor.
“My confidence level is high coming off a win,” said Ababa in Filipino. “I also don’t think we need to make some adjustments at Valley since we all know the course by heart even if we hadn’t played it for a long time.”
What he does expect is the stiff challenge from the rest of the cast, including Rates, van der Valk, Reymon Jaraula, Mike Bibat, Jay Bayron, Marvin Dumandan, Frankie Miñoza, Gerald Rosales, Albin Engino, Enrico Gallardo, Fidel Concepcion and Keanu Jahns.
Koreans Min Seong Kim and Hyun Ho Rho also look to figure in the title hunt after finishing sixth and ninth, respectively at the PH Masters, while Gabriel Manotoc, Josh Jorge, Russell Bautista, Jonas Magcalayo, Elee Bisera, Don Petil and Ivan Monsalve all seek a strong finish in the sixth leg of the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit.