GUIDO VAN DER VALK is just as thrilled and inspired as the rest of the field as the Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) season kicks off next week but still striving to reach top form in time for the rich The Country Club (TCC) Invitational unfolding February 7 at the TCC course in Laguna.
“I’m very excited to have the season start again, especially to play TCC after two years,” said the Dutch, who nipped Clyde Mondilla by one to claim the last TCC trophy in 2020 and join the elite circle of winners in the flagship tournament of each PGT season.
While he topped the seven-leg PGT edition last year with victories at Splendido Taal and Pradera Verde, Van der Valk’s TCC Invitational preparations suffered a snag weeks before his title defense.
“I’m about a 6 at the moment,” he said when asked how he would rate his game at this stage. “It’s tough to sharpen my game as the club where I’m member at is closed for its member-guest tournament the week before the TCC Invitational.”
But he said he’s been working on his swing the last few weeks, saying: “Swing is slowly progressing to where I want it. I’m working hard to get as good in shape as I can.”
The rest of the stellar cast, made up of the past winners and/or the Top 30 players in last year’s PGT Order of Merit, are also in the thick of preparations for the 72-hole championship, which offers a record P6 million total purse with the winner pocketing P1.5 million.
“I know if I play well I can win again. Just got to get my game in shape in the next few days,” Van der Valk said.
But a slew of aces will be going all-out to foil his back-to-back title drive in the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.-organized event, including Mondilla—who won the last Philippine Open also at TCC, in 2019—Tony Lascuña, Reymon Jaraula, Jhonnel Ababa, Lloyd Go, Ira Alido, Joenard Rates, Ruperto Zaragosa III, Sean Ramos, Rico Depilo, Orlan Sumcad and Jerson Balasabas.
Last year’s leg winners Zanieboy Gialon and Michael Bibat are also both primed for a shot at the prestigious championship, along with Gerald Rosales, Jay Bayron, Dino Villanueva, Marvin Dumandan, Fidel Concepcion, Albin Engino, Enrico Gallardo, Richard Sinfuego and Art Arbole.
Three-time winner Angelo Que and former champion Miguel Tabuena, however, won’t be around as the former is booked to compete in the rich Saudi International this week and in International Series Oman from February 9 to 12 where Tabuena will join him.
The traditional pro-am tournament will be held on February 6, featuring a select number of pros and amateur guests of the sponsoring International Container Terminal Services Inc., with the practice round set in the afternoon.