Silang, Cavite—Juvic Pagunsan turned what was expected to be a fierce final round duel with fellow Japan PGA Tour campaigner Angelo Que into a victory walk, cutting loose with an early rash of birdies and cruising to a whopping seven-shot romp in the ICTSI Riviera Golf Challenge at the Langer course here.
Not even a rare three-shot swing on No. 14 could rattle Pagunsan, who surged ahead by four after 54 holes behind a 66 Friday then hiked his lead to seven with a three-birdie binge in the first 10 holes yesterday. But Que birdied the par-4 14th, which Pagunsan double bogeyed on an errant drive, to cut the lead back to four, only to yield the same number of strokes on the par-5 16th on a reverse double bogey-birdie swing.
That paved the way for Pagunsan’s unhampered march to a championship in his first Philippine Golf Tour Asia event as Asia’s former No. 1 closed out with an even par 70 for a 72-hole total of six-under 278.
“I played solid at the front. Though I wavered at the finish, I kept my cool knowing I’ve got a huge lead,” said Pagunsan,” who received the top purse of $17,500 from organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. executive director Narlene Soriano during awards rites of the penultimate leg of the 10-stage second season of the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The victory, whom he shared with wife Maria Elena, daughter LJ and son PJ, was his second since marking his return to the local circuit with a playoff victory over Jobim Carlos in PGT Bacolod last August. More importantly, it primed the smooth-swinging shotmaker up for next week’s Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club.
“It’s a big boost heading to the Phl Open,” added Pagunsan.
Que failed to match Pagunsan’s hot start, falling by as many seven with a double bogey on No. 9. But his birdie, coupled with Pagunsan’s 6 on No. 14, sparked some hopes for a big comeback by the power-hitting former Phl Open champion.
But that never came as Que dropped two strokes on No. 15 which Pagunsan birdied in a strange twist of fate in pursuit of the crown. Que wound up with a 73 instead but still took runner-up honors with a 285 worth $11,500 while reigning Phl Masters champion Jerson Balasabas matched par 71 in another scorching day and secured third place at 288 and the $7,000 prize.
“It’s really tough chasing Juvic when he’s in the lead. He’s so good,” said Que of his fellow former national team mainstay.
Lexus Keoninh of the US emerged as the top foreign placer, finishing tied at fourth at 289 with veteran local campaigner Elmer Salvador with identical 72s while Jay Bayron shot a 70 to snare solo sixth at 290.
Pro-am winner Nilo Salahog struck back with a 69 on two birdies in the last four to share seventh place with Matt Killen of England (71), Thai Sutijet Kooratanapisan (73) and Rico Depilo (74) at 291 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
Pagunsan all but settled the issue with birdies on Nos. 2 and 8, going seven-up after nine holes as Que holed out with a double bogey on No. 9 after a birdie on the sixth.
They matched birdies on No. 10 and bogeys on the long par-3 12th but Que sparked some hopes of a big comeback with a birdie on the 14th against Pagunsan’s 6.
But Pagunsan shrugged off the threat with a birdie on the 16th and Que cracked trying to match his rival’s feat on the par-5 hole, ending up with a seven instead.