THE International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Philippine Masters returns to its home course next week with fresh challenges awaiting Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) campaigners.
That’s five years after the Masters’ back-to-back staging following its revival in 2017 with the Villamor Golf Club undergoing a major makeover into a top championship course.
The men of the tour had actually played the relatively flat but tricky layout noted for its length, tight tree-lined fairways and thick roughs in last year’s inaugurals of the Villamor Match Play with multi-titled Tony Lascuña emerging on top of the head-to-head duels.
But the May 24 to 27 event will be played back in stroke play format, ensuring another spirited battle of precision and decision-making in pursuit of the crown in the P2 million championship the way it was when Clyde Mondilla reigned when the Philippine Masters made its big comeback after 17 years in 2017.
The Del Monte ace edged Jhonnel Ababa, American Nicolas Paez and Lascuña by one before Jerson Balasabas nipped Guido van der Valk in sudden death for his breakthrough triumph the following year.
The Masters, which used to be one of local versions four major championships, was not staged in 2019 but the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. put the Villamor Golf Club back into its calendar after the pandemic as host of the first Match Play Invitational.
No less than the country’s top pros have marveled at the transformation of the VGC into one true test of golf following its facelift.
Balasabas and van der Valk, along with Iloilo leg runaway champion Rupert Zaragosa and former Masters champions Frankie Miñoza and Robert Pactolerisn headline the PH Masters field, which also drew Ababa, Reymon Jaraula, Michael Bibat, Joenard Rates, Jay Bayron, Marvin Dumandan, Keanu Jahns, Albin Engino, Enrico Gallardo, Fidel Concepcion and 2018 OOM winner Jobim Carlos.
While Caliraya Springs leg champion Tony Lascuña, last week’s ICTSI Luisita Championship winner Miguel Tabuena, Bacolod leg titlist Ira Alido and Mondilla won’t be around next week, the PH Masters cast remains as formidable as ever with young guns Gabriel Manotoc, Josh Jorge, Jonas Magcalayo, Elee Bisera and Korean PGT Q-School topnotcher Rho Hyun Ho eager and ready to slug it out with the best and the brightest on a course which puts premium on accuracy off the tee.
Lascuña, who also finished runner-up in Bacolod and Iloilo, is vying in Taiwan, Tabuena competes in the US Open qualifier while Alido and Mondilla will see action in the kickoff leg of this year’s Asian Development Tour slated May 25-28 in Phuket, Thailand.