The Luisita Golf and Country Club, that gem of a layout in Tarlac and home to one of the country’s then four majors –The President’s Cup, makes its long-awaited return to big-time golf as it hosts the P2 million ICTSI Luisita Championship beginning Wednesday.
The par-72 course has been in top condition despite an absence of 26 years in the pro circuit with new owners headed by Martin Lorenzo undergoing just minor improvements to keep its mystique and make it more challenging in time for the staging of the sixth leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
The course has matured through the years but it is practically the same – challenging, unpredictable and a thinking course and the only golf course in the country designed by renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
While observers see an under-par winning score on Saturday, they believe Luisita will bring out the best or worst from the field, especially if the wind come into play, and with water hazards all coming into play in at least 11 holes, including the course’s signature par-3 No. 17.
Frankie Miñoza last won at Luisita during the 1989 President’s Cup, the last time the course had hosted a premier tournament, where the ace Del Monte shotmaker bested a crack international field that included Carlos Espinosa of Mexico and Rick Gibson of Canada. But the former Asian Tour No. 1 has slowed down through the years with new faces emerging and young aces ready to take over.
The pro tour used to stage its own version of the US four majors with Wack Wack as home to the Philippine Open, Villamor to the Masters, Canlubang to the National PGA, and Luisita to the President’s Cup. But Philippine golf took a downswing in the late 1990s due to the ban on tobacco sponsorships on sports with top port management International Container Terminal Services, Inc. reviving the circuit in 2009 and adding a first-ever ladies golf tour in 2013.
Meanwhile, Angelo Que, who came from six shots down to win by three over Tony Lascuña in the ICTSI Anvaya Cove Invitational at Anvaya Cove in Bataan last Saturday, has begged off to compete this week to honor a previous commitment. But the depth of the competing field remains as talent-laden as ever with Lascuña, Miguel Tabuena, Cassius Casas, Mars Pucay, Jay Bayron, Rufino Bayron, Orlan Sumcad and Michael BIbat heading the cast in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Others in the fold are Ferdie Aunzo, Jhonnel Ababa, Jessie Balasabas, Jun Bernis, Dante Becierra, Anthony Fernando, Mhark Fernando, Benjie Magada, Clyde Mondilla, Arnold Villacencio and Jun Rates, and Koreans Anthony Kim, Thomas Kim, Park Jun Hyeok and Gyuha Park and Japanese Toru Nakajima and Yuta Sudo.