Golfers have 'realistic chance' to make podium in Tokyo Olympics

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2021 02:49 PM

Golfers have 'realistic chance' to make podium in Tokyo Olympics 1
Yuka Saso hoists the US Open trophy after winning in a sudden death playoff over Nasa Hataoka following the final round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at The Olympic Club. Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

MANILA, Philippines -- All three Filipino golfers who will compete in the Tokyo Olympics have a "realistic" chance of reaching the podium, according to the secretary-general of the National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP).

Three Filipino golfer are expected to qualify for the Summer Games -- reigning U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso, Asian Games bronze medalist Bianca Pagdanganan, and veteran Juvic Pagunsan.

The 19-year-old Saso is now eighth in the Olympic Golf Rankings, while Pagdanganan is at 42nd. Pagunsan is ranked 51st in the men's list. The top 60 golfers of each will qualify. 

"I've been very vocal about this. All three of our athletes have real, realistic chances of podium finishes, if not even gold," said NGAP secretary-general Bones Floro during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning.

"Why? Well, they've proven it, they have heart, they have determination, their work ethic is amazing. Sobrang disiplinado ng mga atleta natin, mga Olympian natin," he said. 

Both Saso and Pagdanganan have previously represented the Philippines in the Asian Games, winning team gold together in 2018 in Jakarta. Saso also won individual gold, while Pagdanganan won bronze.

Pagunsan, a veteran of the Asian Tour, bolstered his chances of making it to the Olympics after a triumph at the Mizuno Open in late May.

Floro believes that aside from the golfers' skills and talent, the circumstances in Tokyo will also work to their advantage.

"Medyo conducive nga 'yung weather. Because nga, Pinoy-friendly kumbaga 'yung summer sa Tokyo," he explained.

"Siyempre nahihirapan lang naman 'yung mga golfers natin 'pag lumalaro sila sa colder countries na you have to layer yourself. Kasi very debilitating and very prohibitive mag-golf swing 'pag marami kang suot, 'di ba," he added. "That in itself, it's an advantage to us."

Perhaps most importantly, their recent results have boosted the Filipino golfers' confidence. Saso, of course, is coming off a historic victory in the U.S. Women's Open, where she became the first Filipino -- male or female -- to win a golf major. Pagdanganan had a solid showing at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship recently.

And, of course, Pagunsan broke through in the Mizuno Open for his first title in the Japan tour.

"Ang confidence level noong tatlo, naka-peak na 'yun eh. They're doing very well regarding their mental aspect," said Floro. "You always hear people say na golf is 90% mental."

"So I think that our three athletes have that covered, currently. So napaka-realistic ng shot natin dito, shot nila, and the rest of the country for podium finishes, if not even gold," he said.

The men's golf competition is scheduled for July 29 to August 1, while the women's event follows on August 4 to 7. Both competitions will be held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

According to Floro, the golfers will be afforded five practice days at the golf course before the competition proper.