TOKYO — Juvic Pagunsan begins his bid for a gold medal in the golf competition of the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, an underdog in a star-studded field that includes three of the Top 10 players in the world.
Pagunsan, for so long the country’s top men’s player, tees off in one of the last flights of the day in the company of Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent and Paraguay’s Fabricio Zanotti at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Although a regular in the Japan Tour where a victory in the Mizuno Open got him in the Olympic field, Pagunsan has never played tournament golf in the par-71 course located around 70 kilometers away from the Japanese capital.
National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) secretary-general Bones Floro said the 43-year old pride of Bacolod has put a couple of rounds in before the first round and is inspired to fly the flag, especially in the wake of Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold medal.
“With Hidilyn’s historic win, and the success of our boxers, our golfers are flowing with pride, honor, and nationalism,” said Floro.
“What better inspiration than to add to an entire nation’s success.”
Pagunsan, who passed up on a chance to play in the British Open to be able to focus on his Olympic medal dream, will be taking on a field that includes reigning US Masters champion and home favorite Shigeki Maruyama.
Also in the field are major winner Collin Morikawa and fellow Top 10 players Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas.
US Open champion Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, tested positive for Covid-19 and were forced to withdraw.