TEENAGER Miguel Tabuena is raring to slug it out with the region’s best in next week’s ICTSI Philippine Open after his close brush with the championship two years ago.
The 19-year-old Tabuena, who has been touted as one of the future stars of the game on the Asian Tour, will be aiming for a breakthrough on the region’s premier Tour when he tees up in his home championship at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club set May 15-18.
The Philippine Open is making a welcome return into the Asian Tour schedule following a year’s absence but it has felt like an eternity for Tabuena who endured a roller-coaster ride at the event two years ago.
Tabuena had entered the final round at Wack Wack just one off the lead and hopes were high that he would emerge as the youngest ever champion of Asia's oldest national golf championship. But he stumbled to a disappointing 81 and ended up in joint 11th.
“I’ve been wanting to redeem myself for the past two years,” said Tabuena. “Playing at Wack Wack brings back good and bad memories. But I’m glad I went through what I went through because I wouldn’t be the player that I am now.
“I try to not think about what happened but whenever I set foot in Wack Wack, people will bring it up again. So I guess you have to ignore that and focus on the present. It gives me more motivation because I love proving people wrong.”
Tabuena will be among a strong group of Filipino golfers who will be out to dethrone defending champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore. The other local stars in next week’s elite field include Angelo Que, Frankie Minoza, Antonio Lascuna, Jay Bayron and Elmer Salvador.
The ICTSI Philippine Open will be the second of three tournaments to feature on the Asian Tour’s calendar this season following the conclusion of the Solaire Open last March. Tabuena was also in contention then before settling for a share of seventh position.
Without a full card in 2014, Tabuena knows he must seize the playing opportunities at home to establish himself on the Asian Tour after first breaking onto the scene as a 16-year-old amateur at Q-School.
“It is good to have more and more Asian Tour events in Manila so that the local players have a chance to get on Tour. There is always added pressure playing on home soil but I’ve proven to myself that I can perform well no matter where I play,” said Tabuena.
“I do not want people to think about only the good things which I’ve done because I want to them to remember what I had to go through to get to where I am. I do not want people to think it was just a lucky break.”
With his growing maturity, the teenage star reckons he understands his golf swing much better now and knows how to fix it whenever there is a flaw during a tournament.
“I understand my swing more and I know what to check if I’m not swinging it at my best. I was averaging 15 to 16 greens in Jakarta (at the recent CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters) but I was putting very well. If I make a couple of putts then I’ll be happy with my game even more,” he said.