Elite int’l cast gears up for PGT Asia

Ittiphat Buranatanyarat
Ittiphat Buranatanyarat

Forty-two foreign aces, led by the crack Thai contingent, dominate the early roster of players bracing for a four-day battle of shotmaking and wits when the Philippine Golf Tour Asia resumes Wednesday at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo.

Veteran campaigner Wisut Artjanawat and former PGT Sherwood leg winner Ittiphat Buranatanyarat along with Aussies Andrew Campbell and Damien Jordan, South African Mathiam Keyser, Finland’s Janne Kaske and Americans Nicolas Paez, John Michael O’Toole, Brett Munson, Lexus Keoninh and Eliott Hume are tipped to slug it out with their Filipino counterparts for top honors in the $100,000 ICTSI Forest Hills Championship serving as the fourth leg of the second season of the region’s newest circuit.

David Gleeson of Australia ruled the PGTA’s kickoff leg at Luisita last April, nipping obscure Erwin Arcillas in a playoff. But the local top guns topped the next two with Jobim Carlos edging Tony Lascuña by two to claim his maiden victory at Riviera and Jay Bayron rallying to snare the Southwoods crown from O’Toole last month.

Another down-to-the-wire finish looms in the upcoming event sponsored by ICTSI with Forest Hill’s Nicklaus layout providing a tougher challenge for the men of the PGTA with its rolling layout, ravines, hazards and the wind that come into play in most holes.

“The course and the condition vary and one has to mind not only his game but also try to better his rivals,” said Lascuña, actually back-to-back winner of the PGT Forest Hills leg from 2016-17.

But the ace Davaoeño shotmaker has remained winless in the new season, making him hungrier for recognition along with the other locals in pursuit of glory in the lucrative circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Jhonnel Ababa, who won back-to-back PGT Asia legs at Eagle Ridge and Pradera Verde last January, is also out to snap a six-month spell, along with former PGTA leg winner Justin Quiban, Elmer Salvador, Michael Bibat, Zanieboy Gialon, Marvin Dumandan and Mars Pucay, also a former PGT winner at Forest Hills.

But focus will be on the crack foreign delegation, including Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Koreans Lee Song and Park Jun Sung, Jack Sullivan of Australia, Josh Salah of the US, Thais Natchanon Varapornkittirat and Varanyu Rattanaphiboonkij, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia and New Zealand’s Niholas Coxon.

Meanwhile, a select group of pros tests the layout tomorrow (Tuesday) as they team up with officials and amateur guests of the event’s chief backers, including ICTSI, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc. in the pro-am tournament.