MIGUEL Tabuena doesn’t mind the extra year of reign as Philippine Open champion. But he wants to settle everything on the green, fair and square.
The 22-year-old Tabuena, the hottest golfing property in the country today, is looking forward to finally defend the title he won in 2015 yet as Asia’s oldest national championship is poised for a return in March 2017 at The Country Club in Laguna.
Solaire Resort and Casino comes in as the new sponsor and chief backer of the premier golf championship here that will be holding its 99th edition from March 2-5.
And Tabuena can’t wait to be back in action and face some of the finest players in the country today led by Angelo Que, Frankie Minoza, and local circuit’s Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuna as they vie in the $350,000 event.
“For sure I’ll make myself available to defend my trophy and keep it with me as long as possible,” said Tabuena following the formal launching of the meet on Thursday at the Solaire Eclipse.
Lack of sponsors led to the cancellation of the Open for the second time in the last four years in 2016.
“I want to defend yung title ko, but it is what it is,” said Tabuena, who was part of the 13-man Philippine team that competed in the recent Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Originally serving as the kickoff leg of the Asia Tour, the 2017 Open however, will not be a part of the region’s premier circuit next year.
Still, that doesn’t diminish Tabuena’s desire to go for a back-to-back championship.
“Expectation is to always win. I always play a tournament to win,” stressed the young golfer, who considered 2016 as one of his best years after finishing in the top five of the Order of Merit on the Asian Tour.
Minoza, the former Open champion and one-time Asia’s No. 1, was also present during the event launching along with Solaire Resort and Casino president/COO Thomas Arasi, National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) president Caloy Coscolluela, NGAP chairman Gigi Montinola, NGAP secretary-general Pepot Inigo and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. (PGTI) general manager Colo Ventosa.
“I will give a challenge in the 2017 Philippine Open,” said the soft-spoken 56-year-old Minoza, winner of the Open in 1998.
The organizing PGTI has guaranteed an elite cast of 120-130 international players to clash for the top honors in the 72-hole championship. The body has been given by the NGAP the rights to hold the 99th and 100th editions of the Open in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“The Philippine Open, with its great lore and history, will always be one of our premier golfing events and we are honored to be the title sponsor and chief backer of the Open that ha lured the best and the brightest not only from the region but also from other parts of the world,” said Ricky Razon, chairman of Solaire operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp., PGTI, and port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc.
“It is a pleasure to sponsor not only the country’s premier championship but also Asia’s oldest national Open, and we assure everyone that this one Philippine Open to remember,” said Arasi for his part.