Top guns in focus as ICTSI Match Play golf unwraps

November 14, 2022 | 3:01pm

MANILA, Philippines – While the first round draw looks to favor the top-ranked bets, the lesser lights are keen on stirring up play as they go mano-a-mano in the ICTSI Villamor Match Play Invitational beginning Tuesday at the Villamor Golf Club in Pasay City.

Top seed Dutch Guido Van der Valk faces No. 32 Dan Cruz, No. 2 Tony Lascuña battles Paul Echavez, Clyde Mondilla clashes with Mars Pucay, Zanieboy Gialon mixes it up with Art Arbole, and Miguel Tabuena collides with Richard Sinfuego in the last five flights of the 16-pair duels in the men’s side of the four-day event wrapping up the Philippine Golf Tour and Ladies PGT season.

“Every match this week will be tough. Everyone can play good golf so it will be who has the best round,” said Van der Valk, who moved to the Philippines in 2008 while playing on the Asian Tour.

“I played match play a lot in my life. Most of the big European amateur tournaments are match play. But I played only one match play as a pro and it has been a long time,” he added. “As for the match (against Cruz), I’ll try and play smart bit in the end, you just have to hit good shots and hole putts.”

Lascuna, on the other hand, will bank on his driving to fuel a campaign he hopes would snap a three-tournament spell in the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

“Driving will be key here, given the tightness of the fairways. A good hit will give one easy target for birdies,” said the multi-titled Lascuña during yesterday’s pro-am tournament that drew 18 of the leading players from the PGT and LPGT . “I think my experience will carry me through although anything can happen in match play.”

“But I’m also due for a win after placing second at Eagle Ridge-Aoki, Riviera and Pradera Verde,” he added.

Like Lascuna, Van der Valk, winner of the Splendido Taal and Pradera Verde legs this year, said emphasis will be on the mound while downplaying the heat factor, stressing: “I think hitting fairways off the tee is key. If you get into the rough or worse on the trees, it will be tough. As for the heat, I don’t think it will be worse here than in the other weeks we played this year.”

Eight matches are also on tap in the women’s side whipped up by the presence of two top amateurs with young Rianne Malixi raring to showcase her talent and skills in head-to-head duels after proving her worth in stroke play competition that saw her win all her three stints at Luisita, Valley and Riviera.

The 15-year-old Malixi, also coming off a remarkable campaign in Thailand last month with a victory and two runner-up finishes, tangles with Pamela Mariano at 7:32 am

“I believe that consistency is key, especially the short game,” said Malixi.

Mafy Singson, who also upstaged the pros at Splendido Taal last May, gets a tough opening round draw against second seed Harmie Constantino, who ruled the final LPGT event at Pradera Verde and who knows Villamor like the back of her hand.

Order of Merit winner Chihiro Ikeda also braces for an early test with Martina Miñoza at 7:56 am while Sarah Ababa and Florence Bisera duel at 7:40 am

The men’s will all tee off on No. 1 while the ladies will all start at the back of the tight, challenging layout with the winners in both sides pocketing P280,000 each on Friday.

The cast includes the top 32 in the Order of Merit rankings after the six-leg PGT and the top 16 after the 11-stage LPGT with Malixi and Singson gaining spots by virtue of their victories.

Other LPGT matches pit Lovelynn Guioguio against Apple Fudolin at 7 am, Sunshine Baraquiel versus Eva Miñoza at 7:08 am, to be followed by the Marvin Monsalve-Lucy Landicho face-off at 7:16 am and the Gretchen Villacencio-Christine Fleetwood duel at 7:24 am

In other men’s matches, Eagle Ridge-Aoki leg champion Michael Bibat tests Fidel Concepcion mettle, Reymon Jaraula collides with Eric Gallardo, Jhonnel Ababa clashes with Albin Engino, Ira Alido battles Keanu Jahns, Joenard Rates tangles with Gerald Rosales, Sean Ramos mixes it up with Anthony Fernando, Rupert Zaragosa challenges Frankie Minoza, Asian Tour-bound Lloyd Go faces power-hitting Marvin Dumandan, Rico Depilo disputes a spot in the next round with Jay Bayron, Orlan Sumcad braces for a tough outing with Angelo Que, and Jerson Balasabas kicks off his title drive against DIno Villanueva, four years after scoring a breakthrough in the Philippine Masters on a playoff win over Van der Valk.

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