JUSTIN QUIBAN, toughened up by stints on the Asian Tour, headed straight from New Delhi to Iloilo in pursuit of a third Philippine Golf Tour(PGT) championship as the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Iloilo Golf Challenge presented by MORE Power unwraps Wednesday at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club.
Quiban tied for 14th in the just-concluded DGC Open won by compatriot Miguel Tabuena in India last Sunday.
He and Tabuena crowded the leaders in the first two rounds of the Asian Tour event but while the latter bounced back in the final 18 holes and rallied from six down to win the crown with a solid 65, he wavered with a 73 and settled for a Top 15 finish.
But he expects to flash his top form and contend right in the first round of this week’s P2.25 million event put up by ICTSI against a mix of aces coming off a rousing battle in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Challenge topped by Ira Alido.
That should stir up the chase for the top P405,000 purse with the 22-year-old Alido, who fought back from six shots down to snare the crown in a thriller of a finish, seeking to sweep the two-leg Visayan swing of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
But a host of others are also ready and keen on disputing the championship on a course that offers a different kind of challenge with its hilly and water-laced makeup and its last line defense also tipped to bring out the best and the worst from the men of the tour.
Quiban scored a career breakthrough with a three-shot win over Joenard Rates in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open of the PGT Asia at Luisita in late 2017 then fashioned out a five-stroke romp over Jay Bayron at Bacolod Golf and Country Club in Murcia in 2018.
He then campaigned abroad and achieved a dream of playing in a Professional Golfers Association Tour event by qualifying in the 3M Open in 2021.
But while he exudes confidence this week, he also faces a stiff challenge not just from Alido, but also from the likes of Tony Lascuna, Zanieboy Gialon, Frankie Miñoza, Guido van der Valk, Rupert Zaragosa, Alvin Engino, Nilo Salahog and Jhonnel Ababa, who all figured in a furious final day skirmish at Marapara.
Also tipped to shine are former Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, former PGT leg winners Reymon Jaraula, Michael Bibat, Jerson Balasabas and Jobim Carlos while local bet Rene Menor hopes to cash in on his knowledge of the challenging layout.
Others vying in the 72-hole championship are Tour regulars Jun Bernis, Rico Depilo, Orlan Sumcad, Marvin Dumandan, Gerald Rosales, Enrico Gallardo, Richard Sinfuego, Art Arbole, Mars Pucay, Paul Echavez, Dan Cruz and Arnold Villacencio and young guns Sean Ramos, Josh Jorge, Gab Manotoc, Kristoffer Arevalo, Russel Bautista, Jonas Magcalayo, Don Petil, Ivan Monsale and Elee Bisera.
Korean Hyun Ho Rho, who topped the recent PGT Q-School, is also out to redeem himself from a second round foldup at Marapara. The 18-year-old put up an impressive opening 69 but faltered with an 80 in the next before rebounding with 69 and 68 to salvage a joint 10th place finish with Mondilla, Sinfuego and Dumandan.
Completing the cast are Ferdie Aunzo, Elmer Salvador, Bonifacio Salahog, Jr., Carlos Packing, Allan Remata, Leandro Bagtas, Robert Pactolerin, Santiago Gabo, Koreans Kim Min Seong, Lee Hwan, Lee Song and Kim Seong Guk, Lucio Osabel, Francis Morilla, Jelbert Gamolo, Jeffrey Pitoon, Rolandro Marabe, Jr. Pepito Rico, Jr. and Peter Villaber and club invitees Junio Vesinica and Christopher Popp.