MEMBERS of the national team are expected to crowd each other out for the title of the 41st PBC Open Championship as the legendary Paeng Nepomuceno won’t be around to defend his crown when the meet kicks off on Sunday at the SM Center lanes of the Mall of Asia.
Nepomuceno, the only player in the history to win the World Cup four times, is currently in the US undergoing therapy and will miss the tournament that offers more than P1 million in prizes.
In his absence, national team members such as 2006 world men’s champion Biboy Rivera, Frederick Ong, and a couple of medalists from the Philippine team that competed in the 2012 16th Asian Youth championships held in Egypt are among the favorites to top the men’s side of the annual event.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia have been invited as guests of honor during the opening of the meet.
“We are happy and proud to invite our top sports leaders in the kick-off ceremony of our ambitious event,” said Philippine Bowling Congress president Ernesto A. “Toti” Lopa.
Cash prizes and trophies will be up for grabs in the tournament which will feature only Filipino bowlers.
“Unlike in the past, we have kept the foreigners out and limited the competition only to local bowlers in our bid to develop young athletes with great potentials,” added Lopa.
Youngsters Enzo Hernandez and Alexis Sy are expected to give their older counterparts a good fight following their respectable showing in the Asian Youth tilt.
Only 16 years old, Hernandez emerged first runner-up both in the 2012 Bevida-Storm International Masters Challenge, and the Asian Youth boys’ doubles event.
Sy meanwhile, copped the Asian Youth girls’ Masters crown.
Rivera, who had already campaigned in the prestigious Bowling World Cup, won a silver medal in the last Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. Ong also took a silver in the Masters event of the 26th Southeast Asian Games.
Lopa, who is supported by fellow PBC officials Ronaldo Mendoza, Rodolfo Salazar, Purisimo Batin and Honorato de Leon Jr., feels it’s time to make a big move and intensify bowling’s development to shore up the thinning ranks of veteran international campaigners.
“There are many other young, upcoming bowlers around, but they have to get the right break,” said Lopa.
The men’s and ladies’ Masters champions will get P120,000 and P100,000, respectively, in the event presented by the POC, PSC, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Department of Tourism and Boysen Paints.