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Tough Open looms at WW

MANILA, Philippines - With the Philippine Open back on the Asian Tour calendar, the local golfers will be hard pressed to win the crown against a crack international field when the 95th staging of the event is held May 12-15 at Wack Wack’s east course.

Angelo Que scrambled with a closing one-over par 73 in windy conditions to beat Malaysian ace Danny Chia and a host of foreign players and capture a dream Open crown with a 285 aggregate three years ago.

But funding problems in the next two years forced the National Golf Association of the Phils., the governing body of golf in the country, to hold an all-peso Open and out of the Asian Tour circuit. Elmer Salvador and Artemio Murakami won the two editions at Mt. Malarayat and at Valley Golf Club, respectively.

The International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), however, came in this year to put up the prize fund of $300,000, enabling the Open to regain its place on the lucrative circuit as the seventh leg of this year’s tour.

“It has been our continuing commitment to help our pros improve not only their respective games but also boost their confidence,” said ICTSI chairman Ricky Razon. “By playing alongside the leading players in Asia and other regions will give majority of our players a different kind of challenge.”

ICTSI, host Wack Wack and the NGAP worked hand in hand to raise the minimum prize fund according to Asian Tour standards. The other chief backers of the Phl Open are San Miguel Corp., Globe Telecoms and HSBC.

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The Asian Tour’s minimum prize for each leg is $300,000 while an additional $200,000 is needed for operations.

ICTSI has been supporting a number of Phl golfers on the Asian and European Tours, including Angelo Que, Juvic Pagunsan, Artemio Murakami, Tony Lascuna and last year_s ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner Jay Bayron.

The world_s leading port operator is also at the forefront of local pro golf through the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., which organizes the year-long, nationwide ICTSI-PGT circuit. It has also supported amateur golf since 2005 and just last year, added the jungolfers to its fold.

Although Murakami took last year_s all-peso Philippine Open title at Valley Golf Club in Antipolo, it was Que who last won the Phl Open as an Asian Tour event in 2008, beating a crack international field, also at Wack Wack. Elmer Salvador won the other all-peso Phl Open title in 2009 at Mt. Malarayat.

The Philippine Open will be held after the rich $2.8 million Ballantine’s Championship on April 28-May 1 in Korea, a joint-sanctioned event by the Asian and European Tours.

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