JUVIC Pagunsan returns to the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour after an absence of more than two years, headlining the field in the P1.5 million ICTSI Classic starting on Wednesday at the Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club composite courses in Lipa City, Batangas.
Organizers said Pagunsan, arguably the best golfer in the country today, has agreed to pay the P25,000 fine he incurred for pulling out of the singles matches in the final round of The Duel at Alabang in 2013 before teeing off in one of the early-morning flights.
The organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. had suspended the ace shotmaker from Bacolod and hit him with the fine for an offense that also got him in trouble with the tour in 2011.
The former Asian Tour No. 1 now renews his rivalry with top local bets led by Tony Lascuña, Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Mars Pucay, Marvin Dumandan, Charles Hong, Rufino Bayron, Cassius Casas, Gerald Rosales, Rey Pagunsan and Artemio Murakami.
The smooth-swinging 37-year-old Pagunsan will start with Pucay and Hanson So Jr.
During his suspension, he campaigned on the lucrative Japan PGA Tour, posting three top 10 finishes in 2013 and 2014. He placed fifth in the Kansai Open last May but missed the cut in the Musee Platinum Open in Hyogo two weeks ago.
Lascuña is confident of his chances for a second straight win after nipping Miguel Tabuena to claim his first victory this season at Apo in Davao three weeks ago.
“My ball striking is quite okay and my confidence is back,” said Lascuna. “I’ll just have to work on my putting which is the key here at Malarayat.”
Lascuña has been grouped with fellow Davaoeño Jay Bayron and Tonton Asistio. Salvador starts with the long-hitting Orlan Sumcad and Benjie Magada.
Casas also hopes to do good after suffering a hand injury that hampered his campaign in Apo. He plays with Korea’s Anthony Kim and Dutchman Guido Van der Valk.
Hong, winner at Luisita, will start with Jhonnel Ababa and Jessie Balasabas.
Jobim Carlos, who topped this year’s Qualifying School, is also seeing action along with Japan’s Hiromitsu Shimizu and Yuda Sudo and Koreans Woo Seong Bin, Gyuha Park, Lee Hyun Woo and Kim Si Hoo.
However, Tabuena, winner of two legs this year and the current money leader, won’t be around as he is still in the US for a vacation.
The event also serves as tune-up for next week’s Aboitiz Invitational, the third Asian Development Tour event in the Philippines this season, set at Southwoods’ Legends layout, offering a top prize of $17,500 (around P796,000).