With all seven former winners set to take part, another spirited battle is expected when the elite P5 million The Country Club Invitational fires off on Feb. 2 at the TCC course in Laguna.
“It’s going to be a thrilling fight, not only among us winners but also the rest of the field,” said Tony Lascuña, who won what has long been regarded as the country’s premier golf championship way back in 2004.
He did contend in the succeeding legs but haven’t had much success, barely nailing his second TCC win in 2014 when he lost to Cassius Casas by one.
“It’s been a long time since I last won at TCC but with my current form, I hope to get another crack at the crown next month,” added the ace Davaoeño shotmaker who won five legs last year to reclaim the Order of Merit crown.
The TCC Invitational, put up by ICTSI chairman and chief operating officer Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo, was actually shelved after that Casas triumph as the Tom Weiskopf-designed course underwent a major facelift.
That should make the par-72 layout more challenging and the chase for the top P1.5 million purse doubly interesting with the likes of former winners Angelo Que, Juvic Pagunsan, Frankie Miñoza, Artemio Murakami and Casas, also the inaugural champion, all upbeat of their chances in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Even 2005 winner Jerome Delariarte, who has not played competitive golf for years since he took over as golf director at Manila Southwoods, has confirmed his participation.
“Yes, I will play,” said Delariarte, also a former national champion.
Que and Pagunsan are actually chasing their fourth TCC crown but they face a tough test against a select field of local players who finished among the top 30 in last year’s OOM ranking. Que won in 2007, 2010-11 while Pagunsan ruled in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Murakami topped the 2009 edition while Miñoza foiled Pagunsan to capture the 2013 crown.
Lascuña, Que and Pagunsan will be coming into the event in top form, having competed in a couple of Asian Tour events.
Others seeing action are Clyde Mondilla, Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Zanieboy Gialon, Orlan Sumcad, Jhonnel Ababa, Jobim Carlos, Jerson Balasabas and Joenard Rates in the fold.
Others competing are Rene Menor, Marvin Dumandan, Michael Bibat, Mars Pucay, Charles Hong, Rufino Bayron, Justin Quiban, Mhark Fernando, Arnold Villacencio, Albin Engino, Randy Garalde, Erwin Arcillas and Rolando Marabe Jr.
The event also serves as the kick-off leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour with another 15-stage circuit on tap at the country’s various championship courses.