Bukidnon’s Clyde Mondilla takes crack at the top two players in the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit ranking as the rising Filipino star drew No. 1 Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand and No. 2 Johannes Veerman of the US at the start of the Aboitiz Invitational unfolding Wednesday at Wack Wack’s East course.
A two-leg winner on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, Mondilla hopes to measure up with his fancied rivals as they slug it out at 7:30 a.m. on No. 10 with the young Del Monte shotmaker hoping to cash in on whatever advantage he has in terms of local knowledge of the challenging layout.
“I don’t give it much thought, being paired with ADT’s top two players. My focus is on my game. I need to start strong, actually in the first two days to be able to make the cut. Then, I’ll attack,” said Mondilla, who scored back-to-back wins at Eastridge and Calatagan but slowed down in the next four legs of the PGT dominated by Tony Lascuña.
But Tangkamolprasert, the current ADT OOM leader who nipped local ace Lin Wen-tang on the fourth playoff hole to snare the Yeangder ADT crown last April, is out to stamp his class, along with Veerman, also a playoff winner over Taiwanese Wang Wei-lun in the Taifong Open ADT two weeks ago, as they try to press their bid early for the needed momentum in what promises to be a four-day battle of shotmaking and putting over one of the country’s toughest courses.
The featured group is but three of a slew of players tipped to contend for the crown in the $100,000 event serving as the 18th leg of the ADT and 11th stage of the PGT with the chase for the top $17,500 purse put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. for the sixth straight year expected to go down to the last putt on Saturday.
But while the foreign cast, led by nine of the Top 10 players in the ADT OOM, looks daunting, the local roster remains as talent-laden as ever with former two-time champion Elmer Salvador and former titlists Jay Bayron and Lascuña out to keep the Aboitiz crown at home.
“It will be tough with the best on the ADT competing but we are ready,” said Lascuña, actually the winningest local player this year with four victories on the PGT.
“What we need is a strong start and then try to sustain it since the field is too strong.”
Lascuña, also the former three-time PGT OOM champion, drew a late start at 11:45 a.m. on No. 1 with Thai Chanat Sakupolphaisan and Indonesian George Gandranata while Bayron, the inaugural winner of the event in Cebu in 2011, will tee off in a flight ahead with American Josh Salah and Swede Oscar Zetterwall, winner of the Sherwood Hills Classic ADT last April.
Salvador, who dominated this event in back-to-back fashion from 2012-13, also hopes to contend early as he tees off at 10:55 a.m. at the back with Aussie Matthew Gleeson and compatriot Kris Etter.
Focus will also be on the vintage Frankie Miñoza, who proved he still has what it takes to win big-time, outlasting young and current top local player Miguel Tabuena in a record five-hole playoff to capture the Negros Occidental Classic crown in Bacolod last month.
The former Asian Tour No. 1 will start at 11:25 a.m. on No. 1 with Manila Southwoods ADT winner Gavin Green of Malaysia and Myanmar Zaw Moe while pro-am winner Jobim Carlos takes an early start at 6:40 a.m. on the first hole with Cebu-based Japanese amateur Gen Nagai and Omar Dungca.
The top 50 players plus ties after 36 holes will advance to the last two rounds of the event sponsored by ICTSI and co-organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion as chief backers.