BACOLOD CITY — Luisita starts defense of its title when the 34th Philippine Airlines (PAL) Seniors Interclub golf team championships kick off today at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club (NOGCC) and the Bacolod Golf Club.

Luisita is hoping for a good start, according to Luisita captain Jeric Hechanova.

“It is important for us to play well on the first day and hopefully lead or just a few strokes behind the leaders,” said Mr. Hechanova who is fielding virtually the same team that scored a three-point victory over Canlubang last year in Cebu City.

Only Edmund Yee is not around for Luisita, his spot taken by returnee Jingy Tuason.

The other Luisita players are Eddie Bagtas, Benjamin Sumulong, Chino Raymundo, Chito Laureta, Rafael Garcia, Rodel Mangulabnan and Demetrio Saclot.

Mr. Hechanova said they are counting on their veterans to deliver, “but nevertheless try their best and display good sportsmanship to the highest level.”

Standing in Luisita’s way are Canlubang, NOGCC and Cebu Country Club (CCC) which complete the championship division.

“The courses’ conditions are the best that I have ever seen,” said Canlubang star Tommy Manotoc who squeezed in 24 holes in both courses last Monday. “Light rains made the fairways softer.”

Mr. Manotoc, who at 70 remains Canlubang’s leader, will be backstopped by Abe Rosal, Zaldy Villa, Rolly Viray, Damasus Wong, Abe Avena, Mari Hechanova and Rene Unson.

NOGCC, led by veteran Francis Gaston, looms as tournament dark horse while CCC hopes to duplicate its success in the regular PAL Interclub last year.

Ninety-five teams are seeing action in the four-day tournament divided into four other divisions aside from the championship: Founders, Aviator, Sportswriters and Friendship.

NOGCC, formerly Marapara, will host the championship and Founders divisions on the first and fourth day of competition with the rest of the rounds to be played at Bacolod GC (Binitin).

The Molave scoring system will be used in the four-day event. Par is worth 3 points while a birdie and bogey are worth 4 and 2, respectively. An even par round is worth 54 points.

The field is divided into five brackets: Championship, Founders, Aviator, Sportswriter and Friendship.

Each team is allowed to field four players for each round, but only the top three scores are counted. Each player can only play a maximum of two rounds.

The seniors tournament precedes the 73rd men’s regular event slated March 4-7 with Cebu Country Club defending its title.

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines is the host of this prestigious international sporting event. The platinum sponsors are Asian Air Safari, Vanguard Radio Network, Fox Networks Group, and Radio Mindanao Network, Inc.

Major sponsors include The Boeing Company, University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network, Avolon Aerospace Singapore Pte Ltd, Rolls Royce, Manila Broadcasting Co., Primax Broadcasting, Rolls-Royce Singapore Pte Ltd, and CIGNAL TV, Inc.

Other supporters are Uniglobe Travelware Co., Inc. (The Travel Club), Philippine Manila Standard Publishing, Inc. (Manila Standard), Officine Corp., GE Aviation, SEDA Hotels, BDO Unibank, Smart Communications, Inc., People Asia Magazine, A+E Networks Asia (History), and Allianz PNB Life.