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. 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 tournament in 1998 and 2007. "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 the likes of Japanese star Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Zaykabar Myanmar Open winner Kieran Pratt of Australia, countryman Adam Blyth and former Philippine Open champions Angelo Que and Elmer Salvador also in the running. Hiratsuka was second on the Order of Merit last year.
The title holder Berry Henson of the United States is also slated for the event.
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 there 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."
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.
The ICTSI Philippine Open is Asia's oldest national Open.