Cebuano Charles Hong hopes to flaunt the form he showed in last year’s feat but faces a more formidable challenge this time with a host of foreign players, including three Asian Development Tour winners, firming up the cast in the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic which fires off Wednesday at Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Cavite.
Premium will be on shot making although the power-hitting Hong used a combination of superb short game and steady putting in thwarting the young Micah Shin and annexing a two-stroke victory in last year’s all-Filipino staging of the P3.5 million event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
But with the event serving as the eighth leg of this year’s ADT, the Asian Tour’s farm league, a number of international players are vying in the 72-hole championship, making it doubly difficult for Hong to score a repeat and the country’s top guns hard-pressed to keep the crown at home.
Arie Irawan actually spoiled the locals’ bid last week when he captured the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational title via a four-shot romp over Miguel Tabuena. Irawan, one of Malaysia’s rising stars, will not be around to shoot for another crown but the likes of Hsieh Chi-hsien of Taiwan, Wilson Choo of Malaysia and Panuwat Muenlek of Thailand are in the roster, all primed up for a second ADT win this year.
Choo topped the ADT Langkawi Championship last February, Muenlek ruled the ADT Terengganu Championship last month, while Hsieh snatched the Yeangder ADT title via a four-hole playoff two weeks ago and surged to the top for the ADT Order of Merit rankings.
“I just need to do what I’m doing and I hope I can hang around the leaderboard and then we’ll see what happens,” said Hong, also raring to atone for his failed bid at Eagle Ridge where he missed the cut by one stroke.
“The missed cut doesn’t bother me that much. Everyone misses cuts at some point and it was for me last week. But it doesn’t change anything from me,” he added.
Hong drew a late tee off at 12 noon with Cassius Casas and Englishman Nick Redfern on No. 1; Choo hopes to come out strong in an early start at 7:10 a.m. on No. 10 with Randy Garalde and American Josh Salah; while Muenlek is grouped with Mars Pucay and Finland’s Teemu Putkonen in the 11:20 a.m. flight on No. 1.
The 24-year-old Hsieh, out to make an impact on his return to Sherwood in a long, long while, will start at 11:50 a.m. with Zanie Boy Gialon and Japanese Masaru Takahashi in the event backed by Aboitiz, Srixon, Callaway, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Nike Golf, TaylorMade, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, Omnisource and Silicon Computer and Telecoms, Inc.,
Elmer Salvador, a three-time ADT winner, is actually the top local bet, along with Hong, in the event co-organized by ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with the reticent Davaoeno shotmaker hoping to finally nail a victory after a third place finish at ICTSI Splendido, a joint fourth effort at ICTSI Manila Masters and a share of sixth at ADT ICTSI Eagle Ridge.
He starts at 11:40 a.m. on No. 1 with American Casey O’Toole and Chinese Ye Jian-feng.
Other local bets tipped to contend for the top $10,500 purse are last year’s ADT Orchard leg winner Rufino Bayron, veteran campaigner Frankie Miñoza, Clyde Mondilla, Ferdie Aunzo, Jun Bernis, Anthony Fernando, Mhark Fernando, Jhonnel Ababa, Jun Rates, Arnold Villacencio, Orlan Sumcad, Jessie Balasabas and Michael Bibat.