FOUR former Philippine Ladies Open winners led by three-time champion Mary Grace Estuesta banner the elite cast in the first leg of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour teeing off Wednesday at The Country Club in Laguna.
Although far from top form owing to long layoff and lack of competitive local tournaments, Estuesta is thrilled over the circuit, which will feature five 54-hole tournaments for at the country’s championship courses for its inaugural year.
“So thankful to the organizers for making it happen,” said Estuesta, who last competed on the Asian Ladies Tour nine years ago.
“We haven’t had a tournament for years and it’s been a long time since I last played competitively, so I don’t expect much,” said Estuesta, now the golf director at Sta. Elena.
Heidi Chua, who captured the Philippine Ladies Open crown at Manila Golf Club in 2002, also expressed her excitement over playing competitive golf again and vowed to be in top shape in the kickoff leg of the P2.5 million circuit sponsored by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“I am very excited to compete (in the LPGT). Glad that Mr. Ricky (Razon) pioneers such an event for women golfers,” said Chua, also an Asian Games and SEA Games bronze medalist. “Other countries have tremendously upgraded their women’s golf by having a pro tour. Good to know that the Philippines will finally start one.”
Like Estuesta, Chua also campaigned on the Asian Ladies Tour although she has concentrated on teaching young golfers through her Fungolf program at Wack Wack the last few years.
“Golf nowadays is more like a hobby. I had no tournament the last two years although I competed in the Japan Yumeya Cup last month,” said Chua. “Now that we have the ICTSI LPGA, I will definitely be back on a competitive mode.”
Carmelette Villaroman, the Philippine Ladies Open champion in 1995 and coach of the ICTSI ladies amateur team, is also seeing action along with Jayvie Agojo, who won the Ladies Open in 2005 as a teener.
“We’re all excited. Now we don’t have to go abroad to compete,” said Villaroman.
Joining them are former top amateurs Dottie Ardina, Sarah Ababa, Red Bareng and Lovelynn Guioguio, Anya Tanpinco, Sylvia Torres, Eva Miñoza, Lucy Landicho, Lina de Guzman, Marjorie Pulumbarit, Jan Punzalan and Tracy Que, wife of three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que.
Sisters Nikki and Sam Bruce topped the recent LPGT Qualifier at Cangolf’s South course and will see action along with ICTSI team mainstays Princess Superal, Pauline del Rosario, Sofia Chabon and former PLO champion Cyna Rodriguez, Miya Legaspi, Yuka Sasu, Daniella Uy, Annika Cedo, and Nicole Constantino.