ANTIPOLO, Philippines – Coming off a big victory at ICTSI Sherwood two weeks ago, Charles Hong goes for higher stakes this time – the Order of Merit lead – as he tries to make two-in-row in the P2 million ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge beginning today at the Valley Golf Club here.
Hong moved within P39,000 off OOM leader Tony Lascuña following his one-shot triumph at ICTSI Sherwood where he rallied from behind to beat young Micah Shin and pocket a whopping P650,000 purse in one of the four P3 million events lined up in this year’s circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
But Lascuña, still in the OOM lead with P885,000 in winnings, is back after a two-leg stint on the Asian Tour, raring to nail his first win after a runner-up and top four finishes at ICTSI Splendido and John Hay with a confidence boosted by his joint 11th place finish at The Championship in Singapore last Sunday where he won P1 million.
“I’m in good shape, my ball-striking and iron game are quite okay but I still need to polish my putting which could spell the difference here,” said Lascuña after yesterday’s pro-am tournament. “But it will be tough with so many good players in the field.”
Lascuña hopes to come out strong in an early flight at 7:30 a.m. on No. 10 in the company of Jhonnel Ababa and Canadian Rick Gibson while Hong drew a late tee-time of 11:10 a.m., also on No. 10, with Anthony Fernando and Miguel Tabuena, who is also coming off the Asian Tour campaign.
Jay Bayron, winner at Splendido, also goes for a second leg win in the 11:30 a.m. group on No. 1 with Ferdie Aunzo and Zanie Boy Gialon, while Jun Rates, who ruled the John Hay leg, is paired with long hitting Rey Pagunsan and Clyde Mondilla in the 11:10 a.m. flight on No. 1.
Mondilla, one of the country’s rising stars, served notice of his title bid by winning the pro-am tournament, teaming up with Bernie Gatapia, Joaqs Tolentino and Cecil Esguerra for a 10-under 132 to foil Lascuña, Rey Raquel, Jun Lucas and Edgar Quiao in the countback.
Elmer Salvador, along with JB Borromeo, Mike Liamzon and Rudy Panaguiton, placed third with a 136.
Rufino Bayron, who won here as an amateur in late 2008, is also tipped to contend for the top P360,000 purse in this fifth leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy.
Custom Clubmakers, the pioneer and the only certified professional clubmakers in the country, is also offering P50,000 for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
Shin, meanwhile, slugs it out with veteran campaigners Salvador and Mars Pucay in the 7:30 a.m. flight on No. 1. while Cassius Casas, winner of this year’s The Country Club Invitational, drew Dante Becierra and Rufino Bayron in the 11:20 a.m. flight on No. 1.
Also fancied to crowd the favorites is Valley pro Benjie Magada along with Canadian Rick Gibson, Dutch Guido Van Der Valk and Koreans Kim Chang Hoi, Park Jun Song and Nam Ji Soo.