Bacolod—Juvic Pagunsan hopes to buck the expected early charge of the souped-up field, the pressure of completing a second straight victory and a successful title-retention drive as action in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic fires off today (Wednesday, June 19) at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club here.
But 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 teeming with talents.
The Japan PGA Tour-based shotmaker outwitted reigning PGT Order of Merit champion but absentee Jobim Carlos on the second playoff hole to reign here last year and the region’s former No. 1 marked his return to the local circuit this season with a seven-stroke romp over Rufino Bayron in the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Classic last weekend.
That makes him the top favorite in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI with the smooth-swinging shotmaker also expected to cash in on his local knowledge of the par-70 Marapara layout that features twisting fairways and a tough backside littered with water hazards and deceptive holes.
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.
Thais Kammalas Namuangruk and Tawan Phongphun, among the top placers in the recent PGT and PGT Asia Q-School for foreign players, are tipped to contend in the early going along with Aussie Fidel Concepcion, the best-placed foreigner at fifth in last week’s Bacolod, Spain’s Marcos Pastor, and Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational wire-to-wire winner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands.
Former PGT Asia leg champion David Gleeson, also from Down Under, is also among those seen to have the skills and talent to spoil Pagunsan’s repeat bid along with fellow invitees Colombia’s Mateo Gomez and Sebastian Lopez, Englishman George Twyman, Aussies Jack Sullivan and Swede Sebastian Hansson.
A slew of local aces are also raring to slug it out for top honors worth a whopping 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 expected to have settled down with his game and will be among those seen to be in the early mix along with Jay Bayron, Richard Sinfuego, Ira Alido, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat and Jerson Balasabas.
Others expected to contend in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc. are Elmer Salvador, Mhark Fernando, Nilo Salahog, Keanu Jahns, James Ryan Lam, Johvanie Abaño, Marvin Dumandan, Reymon Jaraula and another local hero and veteran Robert Pactolerin.
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