Davao—With the 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso leading defending champion Pradera Verde, the Lubao, Pampanga-based squad is seen as the odds-on favorite to repeat as winners of the Philippine Airlines Ladies Interclub starting Sept. 19 in Davao City.
Aside from Saso, Pradera Verde will be backstopped three other Malaysian age-groupers going all out to extend the team’s streak in the tournament slated at the Rancho Palos Verdes Golf and Country Club.
Malaysians Zulaikah Nusiana Nasser, Charlayne Chong, and Vinisha Gunaseelan will complete the Pradera team with holdovers Annika Cayabyab, Nicole Abelar, Rhianne Malixi, and Luna Shin. No longer with the champion team are Harmie Constantino and Tonita Arejola.
“The long hitters will have an advantage there. But, you can never be too sure. All the good players will be there and we always have to be at our best,” said Saso, who is coming off a double gold medal effort in the Asian Games in Jakarta less than a month back where she rallied from four strokes down in the last round to win the individual gold over Liu Wenbo of China.
Standing in the way of the champion is the Manila Southwoods-Masters squad.
With seasoned internationalist Sofia Chabon and the returning Sunshine Baraquiel, the Carmona-based club hopes to bounce back from a thorough beating suffered at the hands of Pradera last year in Cebu where its five-year reign was snapped.
“I’m very confident of our chances,” non-playing skipper Claire Ong said as her charges prime up for a return clash with Saso and the revved-up Pradera roster.
Southwoods is so keen on returning to the winner’s circle that the entire team is already here, playing in a big amateur tournament where they can test the rolling layout in its best shape.
“Our players have been together for more than a month now and are playing fairly well,” Ong said. “The players are in high spirits and raring to go.”
Annika Guangco, Tin Torralba, Mafy Singson, Laurea Duque, Mariel Tee and Samantha Dizon are the other members of the squad which is the other half of the most successful amateur team program in the country in recent years.
Southwoods has also lorded it over the Men’s Interclub for the last four years and would like nothing better than to have its ladies occupy the top of the hill once again.
Cebu Country Club is the third force in the Championship Division.
Major sponsors for the 13th PAL Ladies Interclub include Airbus, Bombardier, People Asia, UM Broadcasting Network and Primax Broadcasting Network.
Other sponsors are TFC, Mastercard, SEDA Hotel, SM Supermalls and Banco de Oro. Donors are Asia Brewery and Philippine National Bank.