A CRACK field, toughened up by a slew of foreign players, gears up for a spirited battle for top honors, both in the men’s and women’s divisions, as the Philippines Amateur Open Golf Championship kicks off the new golfing season on Thursday at Riviera’s Couples course in Silang, Cavite.
Former champion Rupert Zaragosa and rising stars Dan Cruz, Ira Alido, Aidric Chan, Weiwei Gao, Gab Manotoc, Kristoffer Arevalo, Jed Dy and Carlo Villaroman head the 89-player men’s roster that includes young and veteran campaigners from Malaysia, Taiwan, Ireland, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Guam, United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand and the US.
That makes the four-day championship, held under the PLDT Group National Amateur Golf Tour and sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart and Metro Pacific Investment Corp., too close to call with no player holding a distinct advantage over the rest of the field.
But focus will be on the red-hot Yuto Katsuragawa, who powered Manila Southwoods to a runaway triumph in the recent Fil-Am Championship in Baguio and led his partnership with Carl Corpus to the NGAP National Doubles crown at Aguinaldo last week.
Others chasing the crown own by now pro Jobim Carlos at Eagle Ridge last year are Matthew Abalos, Luis Castro, JP De Claro, Jelbert Gamoo, Nik Gatmaytan, Luigi Guerrero, Riggs Illescas, Gabriel Macalaguim, Jolo Magcalayo, Ryan and Ivan Monsalve, Don Petil, Peter Po, Adrian Romero and Raymart Tolentino.
Bannering the Korean challenge Jang Young Cheol and Jeon Jeong Hyun while others tipped to contend in the country’s premier amateur championship organized and conducted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and hosted by Riviera Golf and Country Club are Hong Kong’s Lucas Lam, Malaysians Tuck Soon Chan and Abdul Rahman Daeng, Taiwanese Han-Wei Chiu, Marc Newman of UK, Masaki Uljie of Guam, American Jaycue Vales and Japanese Koji Yasuma.
Harmie Constantino, on the other hand, seeks a repeat of her feat last year as the diminutive but talented shotmaker banners the women’s field that included reigning World Junior Girls’ champion Yuka Saso, pro tour winner Hwang Min Jeong of Korea, Malaysian Durriyah Damian Nur, Thailand’s Anannarukaen Pajaree and Korean Yang Ju Young.
Others vying for the championship are Nicole Abelar, Diana Araneta, Sam Bruce, Alex Etter, Weifang Gao, Louise Go, Katie Kim, Missy Legaspi, Jona Magcalayo, Riko Nagai, Bianca Pagdanganan and Kristine Torralba.
Constantino ran away with an eight-stroke romp over Korean Lee Ji Hyeon last year but she expects a tougher challenge this time, particularly from national teammate Saso, who captured the individual crown in the third World Junior Girls’ Championship in Canada last September and steered the Phl, which included Constantino and Sofia Legaspi, to the team championship.
Eagle Ridge was actually set to host the annual event again but non-stop rain the last few days have rendered the four courses—Aoki, Dye, Norman and Faldo—soggy with some holes unplayable, forcing the NGAP to move it to Riviera.