HAVING ended a long winless spell, Jerson Balasabas aims for another milestone this week, eyeing a Philippine Golf Tour Asia crown at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
Balasabas edged Dutch ace Guido Van der Valk in sudden death in the Philippine Masters for his his first career win in eight years and the former amateur star goes for back-to-back titles as the PGTA holds the Riviera Classic.
“Now, I know how it feels like to win,” said Balasabas, who actually didn’t string four days of solid golf to score a career breakthrough at the tight, demanding Villamor layout.
But his opening 67 set the tone for a big weekend and though he slid to joint third in the next two rounds with a 72 and 74, Balasabas’ closing 72 proved enough to earn him a crack at the championship. The former amateur hotshot then didn’t flinch in his first playoff stint and out-steadied a rival who nailed his first PGT title just a month ago.
But the PGT Asia field looks more daunting than the one he bested at the Masters with a slew of foreign aces ready to take up the challenge in the US$100,000 (P5.2 Million) event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
They include Thai aces Wisut Artjanawat, Pasavee Lertvilai, Poosit Supupramai, Nirun Sae-Ueng and Varanyu Rattanaphiboonkij, Aussies Tim Stewart, Andrew Campbell, Clayton Bridges and DJ Loypur, and Americans Lexus Keoninh, John Michael O’Toole, Cory Oride, Josh Salah and Brett Munson.
Top locals in the field are Jhonnel Ababa, who will be seeking a third PGTA crown this year are scoring back-to-back wins at Riviera and Pradera Verde at the close of the inaugural season of the region’s newest circuit.
Others tipped to contend for the top $17,500 purse in the four-day championship backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., are Tony Lascuña, Jay Bayron, Michael Bibat, Rufino Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Jobim Carlos, Zanieboy Gialon, Keanu Jahns, Mars Pucay, Gerald Rosales and Justin Quiban.
Manila Southwoods will host the third stop of the second PGT Asia from June 5 to 8, with the next stop set at Forest Hills from July 11 to 14 followed by Orchard in Cavite for the Aboitiz Invitational from Sept. 5 to 8.