Premium will be on shotmaking and putting when the elite field tackles an unfamiliar course making its return to pro golf after 26 years in the P2 million ICTSI Luisita Championship which fires off Wednesday at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
Frankie Miñoza hopes to rekindle his old romance with Luisita as he heads the stellar cast half of which had not seen his exploits when he reigned at the quaint layout during the 1989 President’s Cup. Although the veteran shotmaker has slowed down the last few years, he remains a formidable rival among the other veteran campaigners and a slew of young guns.
“Frankie is Frankie. I believe he still got what it takes to win,” said Tony Lascuña, the reigning three-time Order of Merit champion of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Lascuña, who dominated last year’s circuit with five victories but remained winless after five legs of this year’s tour organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., is upbeat of his chances this week after finishing second to Angelo Que in last week’s ICTSI Anvaya Cove Invitational.
Que, who rallied from six shots down to win by three with a record, bogey-free final round 64, is skipping this week’s event to compete in the rich Kansai Open of the Japan PGA Tour. But with Lascuña, Miñoza and the rest of the frontrunners in the PGT OOM ranking in the fold and a host of foreign bets, the battle for the top P360,000 purse remains wide open as ever.
“Nobody is a sure bet to win here. The course is tight with so many trees so it requires steady driving or conservative play. The unpredictable putting surface is another thing to worry about,” said Lascuna, who drew Japanese Toru Nakajima and last year’s ICTSI Summit Point leg winner Arnold Villacencio in the 7:40 a.m. flight on No. 10.
Young gun Miguel Tabuena actually served notice of his bid for a second leg win after topping the kickoff stage at ICTSI Splendido as he ruled yesterday’s pro-am tournament with amateur partners and club regulars Iggy Clavecilla and Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia and Jojo Guingona providing solid support to their 17-under 55 winning total.
For Tabuena, the course’s tough par-3 holes will play a crucial role to his title bid, saying: “If I’m even or under par on the par-3s, I’ll win.”
Mhark Fernando and partners Edison Yan, Tess Yap and Aaron Chua placed second with a 57 while Cassius Casas teamed up with Glenn Qui, Jose Celis and Jerry Chua to place third with a 58.
Tabuena, who tied for fourth with ICTSI Southlinks leg winner Mars Pucay at Anvaya, will play alongside Elmer Salvador and long-hitting Orlan Sumcad in the 7:45 a.m. group on No. 1; Minoza will start at the back with Ferdie Aunzo and Dante Becierra at 7:15 a.m.; while Fernando and Casas, meanwhile, drew ICTSI Canlubang leg champion Clyde Mondilla at 7 a.m. on No. 1.
Others vying in the sixth leg of the PGT sponsored by ICTSI are former OOM champion Jay Bayron, Joenard Rates, Tonlits Asistio, Robert Pactolerin, Marvin Dumandan, Charles Hong, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Michael Bibat, Anthony Fernando, Koreans Anthony Kim and Park Jun Hyeok, Jessie Balasabas, Gerald Rosales and Jhonnel Ababa.