MANILA, Philippines - Juvic Pagunsan was two holes away from a paycheck he can only dream of when disaster struck the Filipino golfer at the tough Japan Open yesterday.
He also missed the chance to become only the second Filipino golfer to rule the event after Ben Arda, better known as “Bantam Ben,” took the title in 1973.
Pagunsan birdied No. 16 of the Naha Golf Club for a two-shot lead over local bet Kenichi Kuboya. But when it started to smell victory, the unexpected happened.
Pagunsan, winner of the 2011 Asian Order of Merit and in his 16th tournament in the 2012 Japan Tour, double-bogeyed the 17th and bogeyed the 18th.
He let the big fish get away.
Pagunsan wound up with a four-over-par 75 and a 293 total after previous rounds of 76-72-70, just a stroke behind Kuboya who went 74-73-75-70 for a 292 total.
Pagunsan settled for the runner-up purse of $280,684 or P11.6 million. Still, it’s huge payday enough to keep the smile on his face all the way until Christmas.
Kuboya took home the winner’s purse of $510,336 or P21.1 million.
Pagunsan is ranked 17th in the Japan Tour’s money earnings with $496,389 or P20.5 million.
Only Frankie Minoza can surpass these figures with his seven victories in the Japan Tour from 1990 until 2007.
Pagunsan, who was two shots behind Tesuji Hiratsuka after three rounds, bogeyed No. 2 and birdied No. 4, and after four consecutive pars he once again bogeyed on No. 9.
A birdie on the par-5 10th, which Kuboya eagled, followed by three straight pars put Pagunsan up in the leaderboard. But he got careless with bogeys on the 14th and 15th until he birdied the 16th.
Pagunsan moved two shots ahead of Kuboya, and all he needed was perhaps a couple of pars to win it all. But on the par-3 17th his tee shot found the water.
He slipped into a tie with Kuboya, and must have felt the pressure that he bogeyed the 18th, a par-4 which he also bogeyed in the third round.
A par on the final hole was all Kuboya needed to wrap it up.