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$100,000 Luisita golfest on today

The country’s top guns and a slew of foreign aces slug it out at the start of the rich ICTSI Luisita Championship today at the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course in Tarlac.

While the locals have dominated the last five legs of the just concluded 2018 PGT Asia season, the foreign bidders from at least 18 nations are coming into the $100,000 championship upbeat of their chances, particularly the top finishers in the PGT Asia Qualifying Tournament last week, also held at the tight, hazard-laden layout somewhat softened by afternoon rain the past two days.

That should make the kickoff leg of the third season of the region’s emerging circuit worth watching with David Gleeson of Australia hard-pressed to duplicate his breakthrough victory here last year when he nipped local bet Erwin Arcillas on the third playoff hole.

But this week’s 113-player roster is deep in talent led by leg winners James Ryan Lam, Joenard Rates, Jhonnel Ababa, Juvic Pagunsan and Clyde Mondilla.

Mondilla, for sure, will be the marked man in all four days after the Del Monte ace held off a horde of pursuers to nail his first Phl Open title and clinch the PGT Asia Order of Merit crown.

Japan PGA Tour campaigner Juvic Pagunsan, for one, has opted to skip the Token Homemate Cup in Nagoya also slated this week to atone for his failed bid in Asia’s oldest National Open where he was one of the pre-tournament favorites following an emphatic victory at PGTA Riviera the previous week.

So do Jobim Carlos, the 2018 PGT OOM winner who cut short his Open bid after sustaining an injury in the first round, four-time PGT Asia leg winner Ababa, multi-titled Tony Lascuña and veteran Elmer Salvador, Rates and Gleeson.

But the field also features a number of talented foreign talents, including Thais Tawan Phongpun and Ratchapol Jantavara, Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang and Gregory Foo, among others.