Pagunsan headlines Solaire PH Open field

Multi-titled Juvic Pagunsan goes for the one missing in his trophy cabinet as he headlines the elite international field in the Solaire Philippine Open slated April 3-6 at The Country Club in Laguna.

Then an amateur, Pagunsan tied for second in 2004 at Riviera that saw the smooth-swinging shotmaker from Bacolod snatch the lead in the third round before yielding the crown to Edward Michaels of the US.

Juvic Pagunsan
Juvic Pagunsan

He turned pro two years later, bagging The Country Club Invitational title then started to nail victories abroad (Indonesia and Malaysia) the following year. He captured two more TCC titles then became the first Filipino to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit trophy in 2011 even without winning a tournament.

But he never really contended for the country’s premier championship although he missed a number Phl Open stints to campaign on the Japan PGA Tour. But with the lucrative circuit officially opening in the third week of April, the Bacolod ace, 40, has found time to play here, including the ICTSI Riviera Golf Challenge of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia in two weeks time where is one of the top draws.

But Pagunsan, who actually marked his return on the local circuit by winning the Bacolod stop of last year’s PGT, expects a tough outing in the upcoming 101st Phl Open, led by defending champion Miguel Tabuena, who edged Thai veteran Prom Meesawat of Thailand in a playoff to become the Centennial winner of Asia’s oldest National Open.

The 2017 Open was also disputed via sudden death with Englishman Steve Lewton edging American Johannes Veerman in a playoff, also at the well-kept Tom Weiskoph-designed layout, with the same windup likely to ensue in the upcoming event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino and sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

Colo Ventosa, general manager of Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., said the cast will also feature new international players with 50 percent of last year’s field confirming their participation in the 72-hole championship.

Solaire Resort and Casino, also the chief backer of new women’s world No. 1 Sung Hyun Park of Korea, and the NGAP, now led by president Martin Lorenzo, have recently inked a pact to jointly stage the 2019 Open with the former bankrolling $500,000 to put up the four-day championship, which also serves as part of the PGT Asia.

Lorenzo and NGAP secretary-general Bones Floro have assured their full support and the smooth and successful staging of the Open, which also drew former champions and mainstays of the other regional tours seeking to join the elite circle of winners of the fabled event.