MANILA, Philippines — Aidric Chan’s breakthrough win in the Junior World, the Philippines’ sweep of the Indonesian Amateur Open plus Bianca Pagdanganan’s impressive start in the LPGA Q-School have more than fortified the country’s preparations for this year’s 30th Southeast Asian Games.
And with the proverbial home-court edge, things could look up indeed for Team Philippines when golf competitions are played on December 4-8 at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
“We are so happy and proud of our team’s awesome performance. It certainly reinforces our bid for gold in the SEA Games,” said Bones Floro, secretary-general of the National Golf Association of the Philippines, the country’s governing body for the sport.
He was referring to the Philippine men’s team dominant campaign in Indonesia that saw Luis Castro bag the individual gold and lead the squad of Sean Ramos and Gab Manotoc to the team championship, a feat that came on the heels of Chan’s stirring triumph in San Diego where he snapped the country’s 33-year-long title spell in the boys’ premier 15-18 division.
Then came Pagdanganan’s remarkable, if surprising start in the tough LPGA elims where the Asian Games bronze medalist strung up three under-par cards at three different courses to gain a share of the lead after 54 holes of the first stage of the grueling qualifiers.
Regardless of the outcome of her campaign, Pagdanganan has underscored her readiness to spearhead the Pinays’ SEAG bid with Yuka Saso hinting at passing up the chance to lead another Philippine title drive after powering the country to the individual gold and team championship in the Asiad Games in Jakarta last year due to scheduling conflict.
Pagdanganan, a former Philippine Ladies Amateur champion, and Asiad teammate Lois Kaye Go have confirmed their SEAG stint early in the season with the NGAP likely to tap Abby Arevalo for the third spot in case Saso pursues her dream pro bid in the US or in Japan.
Go, the reigning Philippine Amateur Open titlist, also helped Team International to a rare victory over Team USA in the 23rd Arnold Palmer Cup in Arkansas last June. The Univ. of South Carolina senior edged Kaitlyn Papp, 1-up, in singles to account for one of the 13 victories by Team International, which won the duel, 33.5-26.5, and which incidentally included former national team player and the first woman to play in an all-male Philippine Open in 2004 Ria Quiazon-Scott as one of the assistant coaches.
“We’re still working on it (women’s roster). But for now, we have Abby (Arevalo) standing by and ready to play,” said Floro.
Meanwhile, Luisita Golf and Country Club general manager Jeric Hechanova said the Filipinos could cash in on their local knowledge of the well-maintained layout, long considered as one of the country’s top championship courses, whose character varies from one hole to the other, especially in the presence of the wind.
Though Castro and Manotoc failed to make the grade in the 8-round NGAP elims, they remain among those being considered by the golf body for the fourth and last slot in the men’s squad composed of Chan, Carl Corpus and Ramos, who claimed the first three slots in the qualifiers.
“As for our fourth and final men’s team member, we have been considering many highly skilled and talented aspirants who have given their time and have shown great desire and dedication to represent their country by participating in our qualifier, NGAP events and extensive training sessions. We shall be making the decision by the September 2 deadline in order for us to have taken in all the data,” said Floro.
The Philippines is eyeing to duplicate the country’s sweep of the men’s individual and team gold medals when it last hosted the SEAG in 2005 with the women’s team ending up with silver in both categories.
In the last SEAG in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, Go averted a medal shut for Team Phl, grabbing the individual bronze behind the Thai duo of Atthaya Thitikul and Thitapa Pakdeesettakul.
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