BACK from his Major debut in England, Juvic Pagunsan rejoins the Philippine Golf Tour and heads a star-studded cast in the P1 million Iloilo Golf Challenge firing off on Wednesday at Sta. Barbara in Iloilo City.
Pagunsan, who finished in 72nd spot in The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, said the his first Major experience was a huge boost.
Aside from joining a field full of stars, the 34-year-old also got to interact with some of the world’s most famous golfers, including former two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen in the final round.
“I saw so many shots from him (Goosen) and he gave me some good advice,” said Pagunsan.
That makes him the marked man in a stellar roster that includes the top 10 players in the current Order of Merit, including front-runner Tony Lascuna, No. 2 Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Marvin Dumandan, Angelo Que, Clyde Mondilla, Jun Bernis and Elmer Saban.
No. 3 Miguel Tabuena, winner of two of the first six legs of the 16-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc., is also in the field, eager to resume his hunt for a third crown and the top prize of P200,000 after missing last week’s Negros Occidental Classic in Bacolod.
Rookie pro Zanie Boy Gialon, who humbled the veteran Lascuna in a playoff to rule the rain-shortened Negros tournament for his breakthrough win, is also seeing action along with defending champion Jhonnel Ababa, who edged Bayron in sudden death last year.
Still, focus will be on Pagunsan, who topped the order last year with four leg victories. The smooth-swinging shotmaker drew the last tee time at 11:05 a.m. with Ababa and Peter Miñoza.
Gialon and Lascuna have been grouped anew in continuation of their abbreviated duel last week. Playing with them is Ferdie Aunzo. Que, thrice a winner on the Asian Tour, resumes his chase for a first crown this season and will play with Charles Hong and Rufino Bayron.
Tabuena plays with Cassius Casas and Bernis right after the flight of Salvador, Mondilla and Mhark Fernando.