CAGAYAN DE ORO — Manila Southwoods is bracing for its biggest fight in its dynastic reign in the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Regular Men’s Interclub championship with Eastridge coming up as a force with a program that already beat the Carmona-based squad three months ago.

“Yes, definitely,” Southwoods official Jerome Delariarte said when asked if Eastridge is a contender in the event that starts Thursday at Pueblo de Oro here. “They’re continuously improving. They finished second to us last year and beat us in the Am division of the Fil-Am (another team tournament in Baguio last December).”

Southwoods will still be fielding a rock-solid team built around pro-bound Aidric Chan, Lanz Uy and Ryan Monsalve, and Mr. Delariarte believes they have all the firepower they need.

“We have a pretty solid team, but championships are not won on paper,” Mr. Delariarte said as Southwoods shoots for its ninth straight title since 2014, a streak that had the squad parading such players as PGA Tour star Tom Kim and DP World Tour standout Yuto Katsuragawa.

Eastridge, meanwhile, will be coming into the event with all the confidence it needs, especially after having gained a year’s worth of experience since a runner-up finish last year in Cebu. And the most important thing for the Binangonan, Rizal club is that it already knows that taste of winning.

“For sure, we will be coming in better prepared this year,” Gimo Asuncion, the Eastridge GM who will be the non-playing skipper here, said.. “The boys are more experienced now and although we really have no expectations, will we be giving it our all this week.”

Gary Sales, the ex-pro turned businessman, will be seeing action in the centerpiece division for the first time and will be the stabilizing presence in the youth-laden Eastridge lineup. Jeff Lumbo, a discovery of Sales, looms as a player to watch.

Del Monte, which won the Seniors title last Sunday, will be leaning on its familiarity of both courses in an effort to win this event for the first time since 2011, which was also the year the Interclub was played in this part of Mindanao.

Three stalwarts of that victorious team that crashed the expected Canlubang-Luisita party will also be seeing action, with playing captain Yoyong Velez making it known that they are not about to back down from the challenge.

The 75th staging of the PAL Interclub is supported by diamond sponsors Mastercard and Asian Journal.

Platinum sponsors include Airbus, Primax Broadcasting Network and Araw Hospitality while gold sponsors are Tanduay and Asia Brewery.

Joining the event as silver sponsors are ABS-CBN Global, Radio Mindanao Network and Philippine National Bank.

VISA is a minor sponsor while Must Glow is joining as a donor.