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Big names, lesser lights collide in Valley

photograph courtesy of FB/Ira Alido | Ira Alido: Playing at a high level

ANTIPOLO CITY — The top guns aim to get into the heat of the battle early but the lesser lights seek to squeeze into the mix and muddle up the title chase in the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge beginning Tuesday at the Valley Golf Club here.

Bacolod leg winner Ira Alido oozes with confidence coming off a stint in the Asian Development Tour in Thailand, raring to get into the scoring act on a course so familiar for the touring pros but which has not hosted a Philippine Golf Tour leg the past nine years.

“There’s no other way to play the (Valley) course but to set myself up to get as much birdies as I can since it’s a really scorable course that can present a lot of birdies when put in a good position,” said Alido, who clinched his second pro victory at Marapara in come-from-behind fashion last March.

Though he struggled for joint 18th in Iloilo, the former national champion who scored a breakthrough win at Riviera in 2020 placed fifth at Caliraya Springs and posted a runner-up finish at Luisita.

“Playing in Thailand helped me further my game in terms of playing a harder field and deeper scores,” he added. “I’m playing at a high level right now mentally and physically and I know that I will have a chance to win week-in and week-out.”

So does Tony Lascuña, the runaway winner at Caliraya Springs, who likens the up-and-down course to the relatively flat Villamor layout in terms of challenges and tests it presents.

“Valley is like Villamor — ‘maraming trouble,’ so everything must click – long game, iron play and putting,” said the multi-titled Davaoeño campaigner who actually won the last PGT event here in 2014.

Like Alido, Lascuña said he’s in top shape following a stint in Taiwan and expects to put himself in contention in the P2 million championship serving as the sixth leg of this year’s circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

A crowd of aces and unheralded but solid players, however, are ready to pounce on every opportunity, including Guido van der Valk, who bounced back from a rare missed cut stint at Luisita with a joint runner-up finish at Villamor topped by Jhonnel Ababa two weeks ago.

“I will try again to be in contention (to win) during the final round. The more times you give yourself a chance, the more tournaments you win,” said van der Valk, the reigning back-to-back The Country Club Invitational champion. “I haven’t played Valley for a long time and I need to work on my iron play and short game.”

Ababa is also upbeat of his chances for a back-to-back feat after scoring a come-from-behind win at Villamor that snapped a long title spell while Clyde Mondilla, Justin Quiban, Zanieboy Gialon, Lloyd Go and Angelo Que all look forward to resuming their respective campaigns in explosive fashion.

Also in the cast are Joenard Rates, Reymon Jaraula, Michael Bibat, Marvin Dumandan, Frankie Miñoza, Gerald Rosales, Keanu Jahns, Albin Engino, Mars Pucay, Iloilo leg champion Rupert Zaragosa and Jay Bayron, who reigned at Valley when the PGT launched its four-leg inaugurals in late 2009.

Others expected to contend are Koreans Hyun Ho Rho and Kim Minseong, Japanese Gen Nagai, Ferdie Aunzo, Elmer Salvador, Russell Bautista, Elee Bisera, Don Petil and young guns Sean Ramos, Gabriel Manotoc, Josh Jorge, Kristoffer Arevalo, Jonas Magcalayo and Ivan Monsalve along with amateurs Aidric Chan, Carl Corpuz, Kirby Lachica and Marvin Mendoza.

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