By Rey Bancod
CEBU CITY – After dominating the last two staging, Manila Southwoods is expected to get stiff opposition from a reinforced Luisita squad when the 72nd Philippine Airlines Interclub golf team championships kick off in two courses Wednesday.
Manila Southwoods is actually gunning for a fifth straight title after winning the last two editions by an average of over 40 points.
Things are expected to be different this year following Luisita’s big revamp of its line-up and Canlubang’s disbandment.
The Tarlac-based squad recruited Rupert Zaragosa, Carlo Villaroman and Perry Bucay from Canlubang, Paolo Wong of Manila Southwoods and two talented players from Davao – Elee Bisera and Jhondie Quibol.
Luisita’s four holders are Dan Cruz, Don Petil, Luigi Guerrero and Leandro Bagtas.
Jeric Hechanova, who steered the seniors’ team to victory last weekend, said he’s excited to see how his team will fare against Manila Southwoods as they try to win their first title since their back-to-back victories in 1997 and 1998.
Manila Southwoods remains a formidable squad despite the absence of four players from last year’s championship squad.
Yuto Katsuragawa, now a member of the Japanese national team, is returning to lead Southwoods’ title drive. The other holdovers are Aidric Chan, Junjun Plana, Carl Corpus, Chepe Dulay and Kristoffer Arevalo.
Four 14-year-old players will make their debut for Manila Southwoods. They are Sean Ramos, Jeff Jung, Masa Otake and Josh Jorge.
Thirdy Escano, Southwoods non-playing captain, said he expects a good fight this year.
“The Luisita team is a composition of Canlubang, Luisita and Davao boys and one ex-Southwoods player,” Escano said. “It’s gonna be very interesting seeing my 14-year-old boys go up against the big boys on their rookie year.”
While Southwoods and Luisita brace for showdown, Tagaytay Highlands looms as a darkhorse.
Tagaytay Highlands finished fifth in the second-tier Founders division last year in Bacolod City, but has since strengthened its team with the acquisition of brothers Jolo and Jonas Magcalayo of Canlubang.
They join former pros Raymond Sangil, Jordan Mamaril and Junro Mamaril.
Del Monte completes the cast in the championship division.
Play will also be held in four other brackets: Founders, Aviator, Sportswriter and Friendship.
The Cebu Country Club and the Mactan Island Golf Club will be used in the four-day event that adopts the PAL scoring system.
This year’s Interclub is sponsored by Radio Mindanao Network, Asian Air Safari, and Vanguard Radio Network. Also extending support are ABS-CBN Global Ltd. (The Filipino Channel), Rolls Royce, Primax Broadcasting Network, UM Broadcasting Network (Mindanao), Fox Sports, Cignal TV, GECAS, Boeing, Lufthansa Technik AG, Manila Standard, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Dusit Thani Manila, and Casino Filipino. Official hotel is Quest Hotel Conference Center Cebu.