2-leg ICTSI Champion Tour blasts off at Southwoods

Saruttaya Ngam-usawn
Saruttaya Ngam-usawn

CARMONA, Cavite – The ICTSI Champion Tour kicks off its two-week swing here at Manila Southwoods with the crack international field, led by the fancied Thais and Taiwanese, putting premium on shot selection as they slug it out for top honours in wet condition in the $75,000 event starting today (Wednesday, July 18) here.

Rains spawned by Typhoon Henry have softened up the fairways and the greens but the all-weather Legends layout remain ready for the 54-hole tournament that drew some of the leading players of the Taiwan LPGA Tour and the cream of the local pro crop.

“The course is so great even in this kind of weather,” said Saruttaya Ngam-usawn, one of a slew of Thais tipped to contend for the $15,000 top purse in the blue-ribbon event sponsored by ICTSI. “It’s easy because they have forwarded the pins, so I’ll just enjoy my game.”

The winner of the Royal Northwoods leg of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour in 2016 is actually fighting off flu-like symptoms but remained upbeat of her chances against a stellar cast that includes bidders from Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and the US.

Taiwanese Lee Hsin and Chen Min-Jou, the Nos. 2 and 3 players, respectively, in the current TLPGA Order of Merit ranking, and No. 9 Lin Tzu-chi, and Thais Saranporn Langkulgasettrin and Renuka Suksukont, winners of the first two Phl Ladies Masters, banner the star-studded field in the TLPGA Tour-sanctioned event also serving as the 10th leg of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

LPGT leg winners Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, Onkanok Soisuwan, Wannasiri Sirisampant and Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang also exude confidence as they seek another title crack in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZGm PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.

The focus will also be on the local bets who are out to end the foreign domination of the Champion Tour and this year’s LPGT that saw the Thais rack up five victories, including Kawinpakorn, who nailed her second LPGT win in the season at Summit Point last month.

Reigning LPGT OOM champion Pauline del Rosario, who tied for eighth at the Ladies European Tour Thailand Open last month, simply put it context when she said: “Players who are best in this kind of weather will win.”

The month-long break has also given the likes of Cyna Rodriguez and Chihiro Ikeda the time to hone up and polish their respective games while Princess Superal and Del Rosario are coming into the event – and on a course they call home – fresh from their campaign in the Symetra Tour and the TLPGA and LET, respectively.

“The break has given me more time to prepare for this week,” said Rodriguez, the former three-time LPGT Order of Merit winner. “I made a quick fix with my swing and I’m excited to test it out against a tough field.”

Superal actually scored back-to-back LPGT victories in Tagaytay and Riviera last March but failed to bring her winning form to the Symetra Tour where she continued to struggle with mediocre finishes. Back at the local turf, the former US Junior Girls winner hopes to regain her rhythm and confidence and gain another crack at the crown.

“I hope to hoist the crown again. It’s been tough lately but here at Southwoods, I might be able to use my course knowledge as an advantage,” said Superal.

Tagaytay Midlands will host the other ICTSI Champion Tour leg on July 25-27.