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Cebu golfers return to site of historic win

Three years ago, Cebu Country Club made history in the Philippine Airlines Men’s Interclub golf team tournament by becoming only the second team to win the overall title outside the championship division.

Playing at home, the Cebu bets, competing in the second-tier Founders division, denied powerhouse Manila Southwoods a fifth straight crown by posting 516, nine points ahead of the Carmona-based squad.

Bayani Garcia and Julius Pierre Neri each shot even-par 72 at CCC to lead the home team with 36 points apiece.

Garcia is one of 17 candidates vying for eight spots on the team that will see action in the resumption of the PAL Interclub in February next year.

The other 2019 holdovers taking part in the three-month-long qualifying are Mark Dy, Harvey Sytiongsa, Eric Deen, John Joseph Alvarez and team captain Mark Sarmiento.

“We started the tryouts on the first week of November. We will count the players’ 10 best scores in 26 rounds,” Sarmiento said.

He said there must be a minimum of three candidates in a flight for their scores to be counted. Each candidate can only play a maximum of two rounds a week for his score to be counted.

Sarmiento, the long-time skipper, said they are more than halfway through the qualifiers.

“We will finalize the team by January 20,” he said.

The other team hopefuls, including those with previous stints with CCC, are Jacob Cajita, Inting Osmena, On Kyu Ok, Jufil Sato, Carl Almario, Nino Bascon, Tyler Po, Dominic Gotiong, Jerome Flores, Tommy Ngo and Andre Borromeo.

Cajita, who lost to top pro Lloyd Jefferson Go in the 36-hole club final, is the youngest at 17 and holds the lowest handicap — zero. On is the oldest at 60.

Sarmiento said two players will be named as captain’s picks.

“Experience, current form and attitude they bring to the team,” Sarmiento replied when asked what he’s looking for.

He said it is not required to play all 26 rounds, but a candidate is disqualified if he cannot play 10 rounds.

Sarmiento still doesn’t have an idea what type of team they will end up with.

“Not really sure what to expect at this point but we should have a lot of veterans. We’re looking at possibly two rookies,” he explained.

After the tryouts, Sarmiento said they will focus their preparations at Club Filipino de Cebu in Danao, the other venue aside from CCC.

Familiarity will be a concern for the team.

“Most of the players don’t play there regularly. The course is a lot more undulating than the CCC,” Sarmiento said.

“We hope to train there as a team once a week in the runup to the Interclub.”

While everyone is excited to play at home, Sarmiento said the focus is still on the qualifying.

“It’s a tight race,” he said.

In place of the PAL Points Average, the World Handicapping System will be used to classify the teams, according to tournament director Henry Arabelo.

“Since the PPA database isn’t accurate at the moment since there hasn’t been any Interclub tournament in the past two years, we opted to use the WHS-GHIN for the 74th Interclub,” Arabelo explained.

Manila Southwoods, which regained the crown in 2020 before the Interclub took a two-year forced hiatus, remains the odds-on favorite due to its large pool of excellent players.

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