All eyes on Guido

PHOTOGRAPH courtesy of ICTSI Guido van der Valk will be a marked man when the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic fires off today in Bacolod City.

BACOLOD CITY — Premium will be on accuracy and the knack to face to terrors lurking on the tricky Marapara greens as the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic presented by MORE Power unwraps Wednesday.

Guido van der Valk, who swept the last two legs of last year’s seven-leg edition of the Philippine Golf Tour then dominated the circuit’s flagship tournament — The Country Club Invitational — last month, sets out as the marked player among the crack cast all primed up for four days of battle of skills and wits at the quaint par-72 layout.

“It’s all about combination of good drives because it’s (Marapara) pretty tight and you have to hit good irons because the greens are small,” said Van der Valk.

“I’m really looking forward to these two weeks and play on a couple of my favorite courses.”

Iloilo will host the next stop next week to cap the two-leg Visayan swing of the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

“Dapat dito diretso kang mag drive, at ‘yung putting, kasi medyo mahirap ang greens dito,” said Clyde Mondilla, who with Van der Valk, will be as much tested as the rest of the starting field in the 72-hole championship which stakes a total prize of P2.25 million.

While winning the first tournament of the new season would surely boost one’s confidence, not to mention gain the so-called momentum, the men of the tour are coming into this week’s kickoff leg upbeat and grateful for what promises to be a busy year for them.

“I’m super excited kasi after the Razon Memorial Cup, we have one month to prepare for this start,” said Mondilla, who will test debuting pro Gab Manotoc and Nilo Salahog’s mettle at 8 a.m. on No. 1.
“I practiced and trained every day, so I can say that I like my chances.”

“Yeah, I’m really glad to be here and, of course excited to start the season and hope to have a very good campaign,” said Van der Valk, who drew young guns Kristoffer Arevalo and Korean PGT Q-School topnotcher Hyun Ho Rho at 7:40 a.m. on No. 1.

He, however, has opted to downplay his chances, stressing: “I don’t think I’m best prepared to be honest, but I’ll give it my best. It will be a tough couple of weeks but hopefully I can find some of the form I had a couple of weeks ago (at The Country Club).”

For his part, multi-titled Tony Lascuña said it will all depend on each player’s condition since all have been looking forward to the Tour resumption.

“Hindi mo kasi masasabi na i-score ka dito, depende sa kondisyon ng player,” said Lascuña, who will start at 7:50 a.m. against Ruperto Zaragosa and Eless Bisera.

“But super happy ang mga touring pros at mag-start na uli ang tour. Lahat naman kami lagging handa, so lahat may chance.”

Mondilla, a former Philippine Open champion, also remains wary of the elite field, particularly the young but talented rookies all eager and ready to slug it out with the seasoned campaigners.

“Actually, madaming mga bagong pros, so I can’t say about my chances. It’s anybody’s game,” Mondilla said.

Others tipped to contend are Zanieboy Gialon, Michael Bibat, Ira Alido, Rupert Zaragosa, Jesie Balasabas and Jhonnel Ababa while Korean Hyun Ho Rho heads the band of talented rookies who hurdled recent PGT Q-School at Splenddo Taal, including former national standouts Kristoffer Arevalo, Elee Bisera and Gab Manotoc, along with and Jonas Magcalayo, along with Russell Bautista, Josh Jorge and Leandro Bagtas.

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