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THE STAGE IS SET — Biggest, most competitive Fil-Am looms

Around 1,400 players are expected to see action when the 73rd Fil-Am Golf Tournament fires off from 22 November to 10 December. The organizers include co-chairman Jude Estaquio, co-chairman Anthony de Leon, Januarius Holdings chairman and CEO JJ Atencio, and Baguio and Country Club chairman Ramon Cabrera. | Photograph by Julius Manicad for the Daily Tribune

BAGUIO CITY — Accuracy, consistency and grace under pressure from the top amateur golfers from all over the Asia Pacific will be in full display when the 73rd Januarius Fil-Am Golf Tournament takes centerstage from 22 November to 10 December here.

Fil-Am co-chairman Jude Eustaquio said around 1,400 players from as far as the United States, Australia, Japan, Hawaii, Guam, and Saudi Arabia will see action in the seniors division and the regular men’s division.

Aside from Eustaquio, also the general manager of the Camp John Hay Golf Club, also gracing the press launch on Tuesday were JJ Atencio of Januarius Holdings Inc., Anthony de Leon of Baguio Country Club and Ramon Cabrera of The Manor and Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay.

De Leon is also the co-chairman of Fil-Am while Cabrera is a tournament committee member.

“So far, we have already surpassed last year’s number of participants as 1,400 players from 252 teams have already registered,” Eustaquio said.

“This is our biggest number of participants in the post-pandemic era, proving that Fil-Am is still the biggest and longest-running amateur golf event in Asia Pacific.

Eustaquio said CJH is already primed up to host Fil-Am.

In fact, they already removed two big bunkers in Hole No. 15 to make the course more friendly while promoting sustainability that is in line with the vision of the local government of this enchanting mountain city.

De Leon agreed, saying that they widened the greens to make it more enjoyable and friendly to competitors.

“As much as possible, we want our golfers to experience more enjoyable and friendlier greens. We renovated it to make the greens bigger,” De Leon said, adding that they already purchased 40 golf carts for the use of Fil-Am participants.

Manila Southwoods has been a force to be reckoned with after winning the Fil-Am regular men’s crown for eight straight years, including in 2021 in which only 300 players competed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eustaquio said Manila Southwoods is tipped to dominate anew as it parades a solid cast of competitors featuring national team members Aidric Chan and Luigi Paolo Wong.

Chan, who campaigns for University of Arizona in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association, was part of the team that saw action in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games together with the 23-year-old Wong, who knows both the CJH and BCC layouts like the back of his hand hailing from nearby La Trinidad in Benguet.

They are expected to face a tough challenge from Eastridge bannered by 17-year-old Edieson Tabalin as well as junior golfers Zach Castro and Zachary Villaroman, the son of noted swing guru Carito Villaroman.

The Januarius squad is also tipped to field a solid roster composed of former professional players while SPES will be parading the best golfers from Valley Golf and Cebu Country Club.

“Although Manila Southwoods is favored, we expect them to have a tough time this year,” Eustaquio, also a former junior golfer, said.

“A lot of good players will be seeing action this year aside from those coming from other countries from as far as the US, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Guam and Hawaii. That’s why although Manila Southwoods is favored, we believe that it’s still going to be anybody’s ballgame.”

In the seniors division, reigning champion Luisita featuring Dan Cruz and Benjie Sumulong is favored as well as Manila Southwoods, which never runs out of good players.

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