REIGNING Order of Merit champion Miguel Tabuena will be joined by fellow Asian Tour campaigners Angelo Que and Tony Lascuna as they spearhead another star-studded golf cast in the rich ICTSI Luisita Championship, starting March 30 at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
But Tabuena, a recent Philippine Sportswriters Association Athlete of the Year awardee, is still the player to beat beat at Luisita, which he seemed to have mastered following his victories in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open last September and the Philippine Open last December.
Tabuena is actually shooting for a sweep of the first two legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour after the 21-year-old shotmaker dominated the circuit’s kickoff leg in the Anvaya Cove Invitational, beating Clyde Mondilla by three in Morong, Bataan last month.
But Que is the hotter player coming into the P3.5-million event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after the former three-time Asian Tour winner rallied with a solid seven-under 65 to salvage joint fourth in last Sunday’s Indian Open, where Lascuna shared 31st place and Tabuena struggled to finish joint 58th.
But the rest of the huge 105-player starting field are also gearing up for a crack at the top P650,000 purse, including Charles Hong, who upstaged Tabuena, Lascuna and company to snare the crown at the quaint, tight, hazard-laden layout last year.
Meanwhile, the leading pros get the chance to test the tricky layout in the traditional pro-am tournament on March 29 where they will be paired with amateurs and guests of the event’s chief backers, including Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Mondilla is also tipped to contend for the crown along with Elmer Salvador, Cassius Casas, Jay Bayron, Rolando Marabe Jr., Orlan Sumcad, Marvin Dumandan, Rufino Bayron, Michael Bibat, Jhonnel Ababa, Mhark Fernando, Jerson Balasabas, Jun Bernis, Dante Becierra, Anthony Fernando, Zanie Boy Gialon, Rey Pagunsan, Mars Pucay, Joenard Rates, Gerald Rosales and Frankie Minoza.
A slew of foreign bets are also in the fold, raring to break the local bets’ domination, including regular campaigner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands, Sam Ayotte, Daniel Inocencio, Dylan Jackson, Dillon Soldwisch, Christopher Oetinger and John Jackson of the US, Koreans Hwang Kang Youl, Anthony Kim, Kim Chang Yeon, Park Jun Hyeok, Park Jun Song, Park Min Ung and Seok Jun Min, Aussies Mark Leich, Kevin Marques, Nathan Park, Nelson Turner and Ben Ratcliffe and Japanese Yuta Sudo, Ryoma Miki and former leg winner Toru Nakajima.
Three foreigners actually finished in the Top 10 at Anvaya with Van der Valk ending up fourth, Nakajima winding up fifth and Park Min Ung placing ninth, underscoring the level playing international field.
Also joining the title hunt in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. are regular campaigner Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Japanese Yuta Sudo, Ryoma Miki and former leg winner Toru Nakajima.
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