JUVIC Pagunsan goes for a second straight title in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic starting on Wednesday at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club in Bacolod.
Coming off an emphatic win at nearby Murcia and playing on a course he calls home, Pagunsan has all the motivation he needs in pursuit of another crown on the Philippine Golf Tour and a back-to-back title feat against an international field.
The Japan PGA Tour-based shotmaker marked his return to the local circuit this season with a seven-stroke romp over Rufino Bayron in the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Classic last week, and is top favorite in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI at the par-70 Marapara layout.
Still, the rest of the 106-player field, including 37 foreign aces, remain hopeful of foiling the hometown hero in the 72-hole championship serving as the third of the four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Thailand’s Kammalas Namuangruk and Tawan Phongphun, among the top placers in the PGT and PGT Asia qualifying for foreign players, are tipped to contend in the early going along with Australia’s Fidel Concepcion, the best-placed foreigner at fifth in last week’s Bacolod event.
Spain’s Marcos Pastor and Cebu Invitational winner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands are also among the top contenders.
Former PGT Asia leg champion David Gleeson, also from Australia, is also seeing action along with Colombia’s Mateo Gomez and Sebastian Lopez, Englishman George Twyman and Sweden’s Sebastian Hansson.
A slew of local aces are also raring to slug it out for top honors worth P550,000, including former champions Frankie Miñoza (2016), Tony Lascuña (2014) and Zanieboy Gialon (2012).
Clyde Mondilla, who came out of a six-week layoff due to injury and tied for 10th in Murcia, is also in the field with Jay Bayron, Richard Sinfuego, Ira Alido, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat and Jerson Balasabas in the tournament backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.