THE Philippine Golf Tour ushers in a new decade with its flagship championship – The Country Club Invitational – unfolding March 4, featuring an elite 32-player field all geared up for four days of battle at the wind-swept TCC course in Laguna.
Two-time champion Tony Lascuña and 2013 titlist Frankie Miñoza head the select cast in the country’s richest championship (P5 million) outside of the Philippine Open, upbeat but wary of their respective chances against the tour’s revered names and rising stars making up the Top 30 in the 2019 PGT Order of Merit ranking.
They, however, will also have to deal with the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout, feared for its sheer length and unsettling hazards and roughs, not to mention its undulating surface and the wind that come into play in most holes.
Kim Joo Hyung pooled a two-over 290 to edge Fil-German Keanu Jahns by one shot in a thrilling finish last year, keeping the crown at the hands of the Korean-Americans for the second straight year after Micah Shin humbled Miguel Tabuena in 2018.
But Kim, Shin and some of the past champions, including Juvic Pagunsan and Angelo Que, both three-time titlists, and Tabuena, won’t be around to chase for another diadem to honor previous commitments, although the depth of the field remains as talent-laden as ever.
Clyde Mondilla is also going for back-to-back wins at TCC after ruling the Solaire Philippine Open last year.
There are also the likes of young guns Ira Alido and Reymon Jaraula and veterans Jay Bayron, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Elmer Salvador, Ferdie Aunzo, Jerson Balasabas and Zanieboy Gialon along with foreign bets Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands, American
Lexus Keoninh, Kei Matsuoka of Japan and Spain’s Marcos Pastor.
Completing the roster in the event, put up by ICTSI boss Ricky Razon to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo, himself an avid golfer, are Rufino Bayron, Nilo Salahog, Richard Sinfuego, James Ryan Lam, Fidel Concepcion, Rico Depilo, Albin Engino, Rene Menor, Paul Echavez, Elmer Saban, Mhark Fernando, Gerald Rosales and Art Arbole.