Action begins today in the “shortest and smallest” Fil-Am Golf Invitational Tournament in decades after tournament organizers and local government officials fired the ceremonial tee at the Camp John Hay and Baguio Country Club golf courses Monday.
With only 300 players and a short four-day tournament, the 71st staging of the oldest and biggest amateur golf tournament in this part of the world will have mostly local players – Baguio-Benguet and Cordillera – and some guests from Manila.
Some 40 teams in the regular side and 16 in the senior side will see action in the tournament where Manila Southwoods defend its Fil Championship crown.
Southwoods will have six players to defend its title with Lance Uy, Ivan and Ryan Monsalve, Sean Jean Ramos, Josh Jorge and Masaichi Otake.
Out to challenge the Carmona, Cavite based players is Luisita Golf Club which is bannered by Leandro Luis Bagtas, Gabriel Manotoc, Joaquin Ethan Hernandez, Jed Dy and Andres Lorenzo.
While only two are seeing action in the premiere Fil Championship flight, the Am Championship sees five teams vying for the crown.
A regular in the flight, Batangas Barakos comes back again to seek the top podium and will have former Fil Championship winner Forest Hills that will have Jose Inigo Raymundo, Edgar Lee, Dennis Nicomedes, Raymund Bunquin, Augusto Pacheco and Rodel Mangulabnan.
Other teams seeing action in the Am Championship are Summit Point Golf and Country Club, Time Cargo Logistics and X1R Mizuno., another former Fil Championship winner.
This year’s tournament is absent of any foreign contingent that once defined the event as a friendship golfing experience for Filipino and American players.
It is also bereft of the sponsors that once line up to be part of the two-week long event as organizers want to stage the tournament as an attempt to shift to the new normal, boost local economy that nearly came to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aside from the host clubs, the other sponsors are Boysen Paints, Pangasinan Solid North, Puma, Srixon, Mizuno, The Manor at John Hay, Forest Lodge and Le Chef.
The players trooped to the two golf clubs where they are subjected to triage and antigen tests prior they could hit the fairways. In fact, the players will undergo three such tests during the four-day competition as the organizers observe minimum health protocol in a city still reeling from the long lockdown that has forced them to cancel last year’s staging.
“We have to comply with the minimum health protocol as mandated by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” said newly installed acting CJH manager Jude Eustaquio who added that the Fil-Am will be the benchmark in staging all amateur golf tournaments in the country.
Eustaquio and co-chairman Anthony de Leon asked players at the BCC Convention Center during the opening cocktail after the ceremonial tee to comply with the health protocol for them to have a smooth tournament. They added that the Fil-Am is being closely watched since it may jumpstart the resumption of tournaments in the country.