Filipino golfing great Frankie Minoza hopes a first ever meeting with his country’s world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will help him land a sucker punch as he chases a third ICTSI Philippine Open which starts on Thursday.
The veteran star played in the pro-am with the iconic WBO welterweight champion at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club today in what is the prelude to the US$300,000 Asian Tour tournament, which is Asia’s oldest national Open. Minoza said he was truly encouraged by his meeting with Pacquiao.
“He’s inspired the whole country with his achievements,” said Minoza, winner of his home Open in 2007 and 1998. “It was a pleasure to meet him for the first time. He’s done a lot for the Philippines and has helped many people.”
At 52, Minoza, who has won all over Asia and Japan, is hoping to launch a legitimate title assault but will face a strong test with a wonderful line-up of stars from the Asian Tour gathered at the famous Wack Wack’s East course.
Japanese star Tetsuji Hiratsuka, second on the Order of Merit last year, last week’s Zaykabar Myanmar Open winner Kieran Pratt of Australia, countryman Adam Blyth, former Philippine Open champions Angelo Que and Elmer Salvador and Bangladeshi Siddikur, making his season’s debut, will be amongst those looking to dethrone title holder Berry Henson of the United States.
No fewer than 38 players in this week’s starting field of 150 have won tournaments on the Asian Tour, signaling the strength of the ICTSI Philippine Open which will be beamed live on the Asian Tour’s global television platform which reaches over 200 nations.
With age no longer on his side, Minoza is counting upon his close affinity to the East course to help him launch a title challenge. In fact, he won a domestic tournament here last December, coming from seven shots back to win in a play-off.
“I like this golf course. When you’re 52 years old, it’s a good feeling when you can still beat the young boys,” said Minoza referring to his victory. “Golf is a funny game, you’ll just never know. I’m hitting the ball good but I’m looking for something with the putting. Hopefully, the ball will go under the cup this week. Winning the Philippine Open were big wins for me, very special. And by far my biggest wins. Winning in your home country, there’s so much pressure. It’s too heavy to carry.”
The 33-year-old Henson is well prepared for his defence, declaring his game was in good shape although he suffered a minor incident by stubbing his toe during a TV promotional shoot earlier in the week.
“I have definitely put in the preparation at home. I knew the shots I was going to hit out here and I mentally pictured those on the range and hit those types of shots. I worked mainly on my hybrids as that’s what you normally hit out here,” said the Californian, who pipped local hope Jay Bayron by one shot last year.
“I wasn’t pleased with the result (in Myanmar) last week. But I was pleased with the way I played. Hit a lot of good shots. I was way out of the tournament but I played well enough to win. It was just the putts didn’t go in.”
Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi winner on the Asian Tour and has finished top-10 in the past two seasons on the Order of Merit, is itching to launch his 2012 campaign at the ICTSI Philippine Open. He went to the United States during the season break for golf lessons with the hope of improving his driving distances where he ranked a lowly 69th with an average of 266 yards last season.
“I’m looking forward to doing better than before. I went to TPC Sawgrass and learned a few things. He (swing coach Todd Jones) didn’t touch my swing. He just gave me some techniques which I have to apply. Basically I’m trying to create more power. It’s working on the driving range but I’m sure it’ll take some time to get it stable. I’ve gained some 10 yards already which is a big thing,” said Siddikur.
After a luckless stint on the Nationwide Tour in America last season where he missed the cut in nine events by one shot, Blyth has had a good change of luck, first regaining his Asian Tour card from Qualifying School and then finishing second in Myanmar last week after losing in a play-off. He said looking at his old notes from previous sessions with his sports psychologist has helped him immensely.
“I’ve been playing well but not getting the results. It’s nice to finally get a result. It was great to get through tour school as if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have anything this year. There was a lot of pressure,” said Blyth.
“I’ve seen Andrea Furst (sports psychologist) for a long time. It’s about putting what she’s told me into practice. It’s easy to get told things but you have to work really hard on the mental side, more so than the technical side. I went back to my 2008 diary where I had my best year and I recaptured some of the things I was doing then. I applied them at Myanmar and it seemed to work.”
About the ICTSI Philippine Open
As Asia’s oldest national Championship, the ICTSI Philippine Open is no doubt one of the most prestigious Opens on the Asian Tour calendar. It is title sponsored by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which is in the business of acquiring, developing and operating container ports and terminals worldwide. Other sponsors include HSBC (Official Bank), Panasonic Philippines (Official Co-Sponsor), Globe Telecom (Official Roaming Telecommunications Sponsor), San Miguel (Official Co-Sponsor), Cathay Pacific (Official Airlines), OMEGA (Official Timekeeper) and BlackBerry (Official Smartphone and Tablet Partner).
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), J.Lindeberg (Official Apparel Partner), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Official Hotels and Resorts), Cityneon (Official Event Overlay Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Singha Beer (Official Beer), BlackBerry (Official Smartphgone and Tablet Partner) and Srixon (Official Ball). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.