THE Games and Amusements Board (GAB), headed by Chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra, lauded the decision of golf champion Juvic Pagunsan to represent the country in the coming Tokyo Olympics.
Pagunsan’s decision to play in the Olympics brings to 15 the total number of Filipino athletes seeing action in the world’s biggest sporting event scheduled July 23-Aug. 8.
GAB, the country’s highest governing body in professional sports, believes Pagunsan has a good chance of winning the gold medal.
“We have a pretty good chance at the gold in men’s golf with Juvic around,” said GAB consultant for golf Oliver Gan, who spoke on behalf of Chairman Mitra.
Gan said that the 43-year-old Pagunsan has an edge because he doesn’t need to acclimatize with the weather as he is already based in Japan.
“It is going to be hot and humid there. Medyo lamang na tayo,” said Gan.
A former junior golf champion himself, Gan agreed with Pagunsan’s decision to focus and play in the Olympics instead of the British Open scheduled July 15-18 at the Royal St. George’s golf course.
“I talked to his coach, Marlon Dizon, about this choice of playing in the Olympics and the British Open. We both agreed that since he was able to play before in the British Open, it’s better to go to the Olympics and give a better fighting chance for the flag. After all, the Olympics is a once in a lifetime experience,” explained Gan.
He said the adverse weather conditions during the British Open is another consideration.
“Mahirap ang condition sa Europe. Super mahangin at super malamig. The field is stronger and the course longer. And of course, time difference. When he gets back to Tokyo, he will have to quarantine also.So it might not be a.good option.”
Pagunsan is currently ranked 50th in the official world Olympic golf rankings, with the world’s top 60 golfers getting invitations to Tokyo.
Gan said GAB is now waiting for the formal announcement from the International Golf Federation for the final list of qualifiers in the women’s side.
Expected to make it to the Olympics are newly- crowned US Open women’s champion Yuka Saso, who is currently No. 9 in the world; and Bianca Pagdanganan , who is listed as No. 42.
“Yuka has a very good chance since she is based in Japan. Her confidence level is also very high, especially after winning the US Open,” explained Gan..
“As for Bianca, she is struggling right now on the LPGA tour. Hopefully when she flies out of America and be with Yuka in Tokyo, she gets back her game.”
Last Wednesday, Pagunsan confirmed his decision to play in the Olympic s to Facebook golf page The Perfect Drive PH.
“I am pretty excited to represent the Philippines. Who knows baka swertihin tayo sa Olympics,” said Pagunsan, who earlier got an invite from the British Open organizers after winning the Japan Golf Tour’s Mizuno Open championship.
With three golfers in Tokyo, the Philippines will have the most golfers sent to the Olympics since golf was reintroduced in 2016.
Miguel Tabuena was the lone Filipino golfer who competed in 2016 Rio de Janeiro., finishing 53rd overall.
Golf was not included in the Olympic program from 1907 to 2012.