As far as golf is concerned, the Philippines is in a hazard-free position heading to next month’s Tokyo Olympics.
Newly-crowned US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso, 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan, and Japan Tour standout Juvic Pagunsan are all set to go.
“Their confidence level is at their peak. They all have realistic chances even for the gold,” National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) secretary-general Bones Floro said Tuesday.
Floro told the online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum that few things are going for the three qualifiers when golf in the Tokyo Games is held July 29 to Aug. 7 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, which is 30-km from downtown Tokyo.
“It’s summer in Tokyo and the weather is quite similar to the Philippines. So, they will be very comfortable,” Floro told the weekly forum presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
As a Fil-Japanese, Saso, 19, should feel at home, as her base is in Japan. The same goes for Pagunsan, a 43-year-old mainstay of the Japan Tour the past four or five years.
Due to strict protocols, participants are only allowed to enter Tokyo five days before their events. But that will still give Saso, Pagdanganan and Pagunsan as many as five practice rounds at the exclusive course.
At 7,111 yards, the course will play longer than most courses, and this will also give the Filipinos some edge. They are known as long-hitters, especially Pagdanganan, who averages 288 yards on her drive.
Floro is fairly sure that Saso has played the Kasumigaseki layout, but can’t say the same for Pagdanganan and Pagunsan.
“The longer the course, it will be to our advantage,” said Floro, noting that with three entries, the Philippines has the biggest chance to win an Olympic medal in golf this year.
Miguel Tabuena was the lone Philippine entry in golf during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Saso’s smashing win in the recent US Open — where she defeated the toughest field in women’s golf — should also serve as a very strong rallying point for the Filipinos.
“The benefit here is that now she knows she can beat them all. There are only two entries per country in the Olympics for a total of 60. In the US Open, there were a lot more participants,” said the NGAP official.
Saso is set to compete in one or two more events prior to the Olympics, including the Women’s PGA, another major event set June 24 to 27 in Atlanta.
Pagunsan is riding high on his Japan Tour victory at the Mizuno Open last month. He will also compete in the prestigious British Open on July 15-18 at Royal St. George’s Golf Course in England.
Pagdanganan saw action in the LPGA Mediheal Championship in Daly City last week. She finished tied for 64th place.
Floro said being busy close to the Olympics should serve the Filipino golfers in good stead.
“The more tournaments they compete in, the better.”