Micah Shin, the first non-Filipino to win The Country Club Invitational last February, returns to the local golfing scene this week, seeking another breakthrough in the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters which unwraps Wednesday at the Villamor Golf Club.
The young Davao-based Korean-American has campaigned in other regional tours after edging Miguel Tabuena by one to rule the TCC Invitational, long considered as one of the country’s major events for its prestige and prize money with the lean but mean 22-year-old shotmaker training his sights on the Masters crown against the cream of the local pro crop and a slew of other foreign bidders.
Shin is actually shooting for a third local championship after securing his first pro win in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open of the Philippine Golf Tour in 2016, where he upstaged the likes of Clyde Mondilla and Tony Lascuña for the championship.
Mondilla and Lascuña also happen to be the lead players in the Masters chase along with two-time PGT Asia winner Jhonnel Ababa, Jay Bayron, Michael Bibat, Marvin Dumandan, Joenard Rates, Keanu Jahns, Rene Menor, Mars Pucay, Justin Quiban, Elmer Salvador and Orlan Sumcad, all eager to foil Shin and the other foreign aces vying in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI and hosted by the VGC.
They include Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Canadian Lindsey Renolds, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Spain’s Paya Vila Salvador, Japanese Yuta Sudo, Keisuke Takahashi, Naoya Takahashi, Yu Ikeda and Eiichiro Hiyama and Koreans Guo Chang Chang, Myung Chal Hwang, Kim Sung Wook, Lee Hyun Jun, Park Jun Sung and Park Min Ung.
Americans Lexus Keoninh and Andy Kang have also primed themselves up for the chase for the top P550,000 purse in the four-day championship which the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and VGC had agreed to revive last year as one of the highlight events on the PGT calendar.
But focus will be on Shin, who toughened up by competing in the Myanmar Open, Indian Open and China Open, making him one of the early favorites in the blue-ribbon championship backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT,
Held periodically from 1976 to 2000, the Phl Masters used to serve as a precursor to the Philippine Open to attract pro golfers in the region and beyond. But after Cassius Casas ruled the event in 2000, the sport took a major hit following the economic turmoil.
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