Filipino Olympian profile: Golfer Juvic proves never too late to fulfill Games dreams


Posted at Jul 21 2021 06:20 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2021 07:19 AM

Filipino Olympian profile: Golfer Juvic proves never too late to fulfill Games dreams 1
Juvic Pagunsan during a practice round ahead of The British Open Golf Championships on July 14, 2014. Peter Muhly, AFP/file

It wasn’t so much Juvic Pagunsan’s win at the Mizuno Open that propelled him to fame in international golf circles. It was more how he did it. 

The Filipino golfer scored his first Japan Tour title after 10 years competing there, despite carrying his own bag with only 11 clubs. 

“I am getting older and last 2 times with 14 clubs were really heavy,” Pagunsan said in an interview posted on the Japan Tour website, referring to the added workload.

“I don’t like to use the electric carts, since you have to go all the way around the greens.” 

The idea of lugging around a bag that heavy sounded ridiculous.

And when he joins the Philippine contingent as its oldest member at the Tokyo Olympics this week, the thought that at 43 years old he will live out his Olympic dream is equally unthinkable. 

But Pagunsan hasn’t cared for odds; he puts in the work and consequently, like what he accomplished at the Mizuno Open, he’s adding to his personal golf legacy.

“I am pretty excited to represent the Philippines. Who knows baka swertehin tayo sa Olympics? (Who knows, we might get lucky?)” he said when he announced he was participating in the Olympics, not The Open Championship, his prize for winning the Mizuno. 

Pagunsan’s career has been defined by a lot of near-misses. 

He has had 8 runner-up finishes on the Asian Tour and 7 on the Japan Tour, “an impressive track record, even though it is void of titles,” an Asian Tour profile on him reported. 

His last major regional victory was at the Asian Tour’s Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational in 2007. 

“I was a little bit worried that I would never win again,” Pagunsan said. “But I kept practicing, playing and working on getting mentally stronger. That is why I was able to win again.” 

The wins may have been hard to come by, but because he has finished consistently near the top the money came in consistently. 

In 2011, Pagunsan clinched the Asian Tour Order of Merit title for the most winnings at $788,298, an amount he took home mainly because of the $666,660 he earned for placing second at the Barclays Singapore Open. 

For topping the Mizuno Open, he was awarded $109,304, giving him a total $2,163,489 in earnings on the Japan Tour. 

“Hopefully I can win again,” he said. “Every year and every tournament I keep positive.”

Pagunsan at the Olympics will allow him to relish a bit of history by being part of an elite company — only he and Miguel Tabuena in Rio 2016 will have competed in men’s golf at the Summer Games. 

Pagunsan booked a ticket to Tokyo, thanks mainly to a qualification system that gives more countries an opportunity to send representatives. 

Because countries can send only a maximum of either 4 or 2 players — depending on their world rankings — golf encourages a diverse cast of nationalities. And Pagunsan capitalized on that. 

After winning the Mizuno Open, he said his philosophy was he’ll control what he can and let go of what he can’t. 

Ahead of the Tokyo Games, with a more stacked competition awaiting him, that’s a belief system worth having.

Who would’ve thought after 10 years on the Japan Tour he’d win his first championship there? Who would’ve thought that at his age he’d be called an Olympian?

Men’s golf will be played on July 29 to August 1 at Kasumigaseki Country Club

“If the tournament is yours, it is yours,” Pagunsan said, “but if it is not, it’s not. 

“But if you still keep playing, you have a chance to win.”

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