CANLUBANG, Philippines - – Angelo Que sets out for a record win, Frankie Miñoza seeks a repeat, Tony Lascuña tries to snap a long spell and Elmer Salvador and Miguel Tabuena shoot for a first-ever crown. With the rest of the select field all geared up for the big event, a shootout is expected right in the opener of the P5 million The Country Club Invitational beginning today at the TCC layout here.
Like in last year’s 11th edition of what has become the country’s major golfing championship, a tight, spirited battle for the crown is seen from start all the way to Sunday’s finale with the elite 30-player roster all in top form and the dreaded TCC wind expected to come into play, especially this weekend.
“Given the condition here, it’s anybody’s race,” said Lascuña, who first and last won in 2004 but is confident of his chances this year owing to his form that netted him back-to-back Order of Merit titles on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“But I feel good and my game is quite okay although the long hitters will definitely have the edge here,” added Lascuña, referring to three-time champion Que and Miñoza.
“I like my chances again this year although one needs a little bit of luck to win here,” said Miñoza, who nipped brothers Jay and Rufino Bayron in the playoff one after the other to nail his first-ever TCC Invitational crown last year. But the veteran campaigner, the most decorated player in the fold who also lost in a playoff here in 2006, is wary of his chances, given the depth of the competing field in the event held in honor of ICTSI founder Enrique “Don Pocholo” Razon Sr.
Meanwhile, ICTSI head of Public Relations Narlene Soriano and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. general manager Colo Ventosa launched yesterday the 17-leg ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour during awards rites of the pro-am tournament. The 2014 season will kick off March 13-16 with the Solaire Open and will end at Wack Wack on Nov. 12-15 for the Solaire Tournament Players Championship.
What makes this year’s tour different from the previous five is that all tournaments will now be 72-hole events, including four which will offer a total purse of P3.5 million each.
Also on tap is the eight-leg ICTSI Ladies PGT set to fire off April 16 at The Orchard with a three-day qualifier slated next week at Eagle Ridge’s Aoki course in Cavite.
Though the TCC Invitational is not included in the annual ICTSI PGT, the event remains the most-awaited of all tournaments for its prestige and prize money with only the top 30 players from last year’s Order of Merit competing for a whopping P1.5 million top purse.
Among the contenders, Que and Lascuña are the most upbeat of their chances although a slew of players would rather not talk about the odds but rather work on their respective games.
“I’ll just try to stay focused throughout. This is a tough course especially with the wind,” said the soft-spoken Salvador. “Madaming magagaling ngayon (There are so many good players now).”
“I’m ready and in pretty good shape,” said Que, who drew Miñoza and lady amateur ace and reigning SEA Games gold medalist Princess Superal in one of the featured flights. “I hope to do well and hopefully win a record fourth title this week.”