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Guido likes his chances

GUIDO van der Valk is the man to beat in Caliraya. | Photograph courtesy of PGT

CAVINTI, Laguna — A stellar cast of international entries raring to make a mad rush to the top spice up the ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championships that get under way Tuesday at the Caliraya Spring Golf Club.

“Caliraya is a little bit of a combination of the two courses we played in Davao,” said Guido van der Valk, who finished second both in the Apo Golf Classic and the Rancho Palos Verdes Championship last month.

The Dutch golfer tied for 12th in last year’s edition of this event won by Tony Lascuña on an 18-under 270 total. But with a fine start to the new season, Van der Valk looks to improve on his performance in the next four days of the P2.5 million championship.

“I’ve had a decent preparation this time around, so if I can get my green reading correct, it should be a nice week for me. I think Caliraya is more of a second shot course,” he added.

With its treacherous terrains, water hazards and tricky surface, Caliraya Springs will indeed challenge the field’s iron play and strategic thinking, although players who excel in long, precise drives could also find success and produce low scores.

Lascuña, aiming to compensate for his shorter drive with skillful fairway wood and rescue shots, remains hopeful for a consecutive title after placing joint third at Apo and ending up 10th at Palos Verdes.

He swears the stiff competition from a talented field that includes Jhonnel Ababa, Clyde Mondilla, Angelo Que, Ira Alido, Keanu Jahns and 2022 champion Zanieboy Gialon.

“The course is in great condition, so it’s all about who gets off to the best start,” Lascuña said.

Ababa, on the other hand, is looking to bounce back after a less than stellar performance at Palos Verdes, where he ended in a tie for 25th following his playoff victory over Van der Valk at Apo although he has faced some challenges in his preparation for this week’s tournament.

“My expectations are mixed, about 50-50. My swing hasn’t been great lately. But I think a score of 13- or 15-under could likely clinch the championship here,” said Ababa, revealing a cautious yet hopeful outlook towards the tournament.

Mondilla, a former Order of Merit winner, and Que, prepping up for the Saudi Open next week, are among those seeking redemption and momentum.

The break has seen many players honing their skills, ready to vie for the top P450,000 prize offered in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

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