The country’s top guns mix it up one last time in this year’s Philippine Golf Tour but in team play format as the Duel – North vs South VI unwraps today (Wednesday) with the four-ball at Sta. Elena Golf Club in Laguna.
Man for man, the South squad appears to have the edge with Tony Lascuña, Reymon Jaraula and Jhonnel Ababa, who swept the last four legs of the milestone 10th season of the country’s premier circuit, spearheading the charge of the side that has won three of the first five editions of the event serving as highlight of each PGT season put up by ICTSI.
But the Northerners have put emphasis on cohesion rather than individual skills, frustrating their fancied rivals the last time out at John Hay that saw them dominate the foursomes and four-ball formats to seize control before holding sway in the singles to pull off a three-point win and cut South’s series lead to 2-3.
North coach Cookie La’O and South counterpart Charles Hong have both expressed confidence in the run-up to the three-day event with each side hoping to draw the best from their combinations in the opening four-ball (best-ball) featuring six matches.
La’O is putting up the Keanu Jahns-Gerald Rosales pair against the multi-titled Jay Bayron and Albin Engino while Ira Alido teams up with Mars Pucay as they go up against Elmer Salvador and Jaraula of the South squad.
North’s Justin Quiban and new member Eric Gallardo clash with South’s Zanieboy Gialon and Jerson Balasabas with Lascuña and Nilo Salahog testing the mettle of Michael Bibat and Jun Bernis.
Rufino Bayron hopes to cash in on good form following a pro-am victory Monday as he and fellow Davaoeño Ababa tangle with North’s Ryan Lam and Fidel Concepcion then Jobim Carlos and Joenard Rates of North cap the day’s duel with Arnold Villacencio and Rene Menor of South.
Hostilities start at 7:30 a.m. with play shifting to foursomes (alternate shot) tomorrow. The deciding singles, featuring 12 matches, will be played Friday with the cast all ready to showcase their skills in individual play.
Team South actually trailed in the first two days in the fourth Duel at Wack Wack in 2015 but dominated the singles and won all but three matches to beat North, 12 1/2-11 1/2, and complete a back-to-back feat.
But the Northerners toughened up in the 2017 edition, also wresting control in the foursomes and four-ball before splitting the singles matches to prevail.
The top players in the OOM rankings each season make up the two teams with pro-am winner Rufino Bayron serving as Hong’s assistant in the South side and Miko Alejandro assisting La’O in the country’s version of the Ryder Cup.