Aussie ace firms up PGT Iloilo cast

Aussie Tim Stewart seeks to complete an unfinished business and mark his return to the Philippine Golf Tour in big fashion as he headlines a stellar international field in the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge which gets going Wednesday at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club in Sta. Barbara.

The big-hitting ace from Sydney took charge in the opener of this event last year but failed to match Jobim Carlos’ record-setting 62 in the third and settled for runner-up honors for his best finish thus far in the circuit put up by ICTSI.

But with Carlos still out of commission for the seventh straight week and Juvic Pagunsan opting to take a rest after scoring back-to-back title romps in the Bacolod and Negros stops of the four-leg Visayan swing, Stewart could be looking to a breakthrough on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.,

He tied for 11th in his last PGT tournament at The Country Club Invitational last April and toughened for this week’s event with a five-week stint on the China tour.

But he will be as much tested as the rest of the 92-player field featuring the other leading players on the PGT, including a host of other foreign aces all geared up for four days of iron duel at what has long been considered as the country’s oldest par-70 course.

They include Lexus Keoninh, who tied for third here last year, and fellow Americans Greg Gonzalez. Charles Lee, Sean Talmadge and Pete Vilairatana, who tied for third in last week’s Negros Occidental Classic, along with Aussies Fidel Concepcion and Calum Juniper, Japanese Ryui Hashimoto, Kei Matsuoka, Kanata Nakagawa and Yudai Suzuki, who is out to redeem himself from a poor finish in Negros which he led in the first round with a bogey-free 64 only to end up with three over-par cards and ended up in joint 29th.

Dutch Guido Van der Valk, a wire-to-wire in Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational three weeks ago, is also tipped to contend for the P550,000 purse along with Koreans Myung Chal Hwang and Sangun Lee, Argentina’s Emilio Parodi, Jesus Rafael Parra of Venezuela and Spain’s Marcos Pastor.

Twelve invitees also aim for a strong finish, including former PGT Asia leg winner David Gleeson of Australia, Swede Sebastian Hansson, Colombia’s Mateo Gomez and Sebastian Lopez and Finland’s Teemu Putkonen.

But the locals will be out to keep crown at home with Clyde Mondilla hoping to settle down with his game after a long layoff and so-so finishes in the past two tournaments along with Jhonnel Ababa, Jay Bayron, Michael Bibat, Zanieboy Gialon, James Ryan Lam, Keanu Jahns, Tony Lascuña, Elmer Salvador and Richard Sinfuego.

A select group of pros, meanwhile, will test the short but challenging layout in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am where they will be paired with officials and 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.