■ Harley F. Palangchao
The 73rd edition of the annual Fil-Am Invitational Golf Tournament set at the Baguio Country Club and Camp John Hay on Nov. 22 to Dec. 10 is touted to be a highly-competitive one with 13 teams registering a less than three handicap index.
These teams will see action in the championship flights of the regular division which is set on the second week of the biggest and longest amateur golf tournament in the Asia-Pacific, according to Fil-Am executive committee co-chair Jude Eustaquio of CJH Golf Club.
Rising players from Davao are expected to see action, as the Manila Southwoods will be back to defend their titles both in the Fil and Am championship divisions.
Presented by Januarius Holdings, Inc., around 252 teams composed of around 1,400 players will compete for the titles in the various divisions in seniors and regular division, according to the executive committee.
The seniors and lower brackets of the regular division are set on the first week of the tournament set Nov. 22 to 30. Practice rounds will be from Nov. 22 to 24 while the remaining days will be the tournament proper.
The practice rounds for the second week will be on Dec. 2 to 4 before the best amateur golfers in the championship flights and upper bracket of the regular division vie for titles from Dec. 5 to 10.
Executive committee co-chair Anthony de Leon of BCC told reporters the number of registered players has surpassed the 1,200 players who competed in the past staging of the tournament before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Eustaquio said the growing number of junior golfers from Baguio and Benguet competing against the best in the Fil-Am gives hope to the bid to discover Cordilleran golfers who made a name in national and international events such as Mars Pucay and Danny Zarate.
South Korean golfer Tom Kim, who became the youngest player to win three PGA Tour titles since Tiger Woods, is also a known figure who played in the Fil-Am representing the Manila Southwoods before he turned professional golfer.
Aside from the registered teams, more than 130 more teams are in the waiting list hoping they will get slots to participate in the coming years.
Januarius Holdings Inc. chairman JJ Atencio claimed the Fil-Am is the grandest and biggest, as well as the most organized amateur golf tournament he had joined so far.
The favorable weather the past months also greatly helped in the sustained maintenance of the fairway and greens of both host clubs.