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Thais eye PGTA breakthrough

A strong 11-man crew seeks to record Thailand’s first championship in the PGT Asia, which resumes its 2018-19 season with the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic beginning tomorrow Wednesday at the Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club in Lubao, Pampanga.

The Thais, the country’s perennial rivals in the men’s and women’s sides in the amateurs, are due for a breakthrough in the region’s newest circuit after Pasavee Lertvilai tied for second to Rene Menor at Splendido in 2017 and Namchok Tantipokhakul finished runner-up to Aussie Damien Jordan in the Aboitiz Invitational at the Orchard last year.

The Thais have contended in other PGTA events but just could put it all together in the end, keeping them winless in 14 events combined but hopeful heading to the $100,000 championship serving as the eighth leg of the second season of the tour put up by ICTSI.

Lertvilai, also a former PGT Asia Qualifying School topnotcher, and Tantipokhakul are back in this week’s event as spearheads of a side that includes veteran campaigner Wisut Artjanawat, Chonlatit Chuenboonngam, Jaturon Duangpaichoom, Sutijet Kooratanapisan, Tawit Polthai, Puk Pradittan, Nirun Sae-ueng, Thammanoon Sriroj and Piya Swangarunporn.

But the Thais will be as much tested as the rest of the foreign bidders, along with the local aces, for the top $17,500 purse in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

For one, Jordan and Luisita leg winner David Gleeson are going all-out for a second win with fellow Aussies Clayron Bridges, Andrew Campbell, Calum Juniper, Jack Sullivan and Simon Viitakangas also seeking to join the elite circle of winners of the circuit.

Regular campaigner Lexus Keoninh also brims with confidence as he resumes his title hunt along with fellow Americans Sam Gillis, Sydney Chung, Andy Kang, Charles Lee, Teemu Putkonen and Joshua Salah while Koreans Hwang Myung Chal, Lee Sangun, Park Jun Hyeok, Park Jun Sung and Kim Jun Sik likewise eye a strong showing in the blue-ribbon event.

Meanwhile, a select group of pros, led by Filipino top guns Clyde Mondilla, Tony Lascuña, Jay Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa, test the Pradera layout one last time in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament where they will be paired with guests and officials of the event’s chief backers, including ICTSI, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.

The Mike Singgaran-design course inside the sprawling Pradera complex in Barangay Prado Siongco has been kept at its championship form all-year with its bunkers and water hazards ready to challenge the elite field.