Juvic Pagunsan of Bacolod retained the ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational crown in another runaway fashion, outclassing Dabawenyo Ferdie Aunzo with a closing two-under 70 for a four-stroke victory, July 16, at the Apo Golf and Country Club.
Pagunsan used a rock-solid frontside charge of 33 to whisk off Ferdie Aunzo then coasted along at the back to complete a virtual repeat of his six-shot romp over Artemio Murakami and Jerome Delariarte last year.
Counting his back-to-back 69s, the 31-year-old Pagunsan pooled a 208 aggregate, four shots clear of unheralded Elmer Saban, also from Davao, and Aunzo, who both had 212s after a 70 and a 74.
The victory, worth P200,000, was Pagunsan’s second this season after topping the ICTSI Riviera leg last May and it pushed the smooth-swinging pro to the top of the Order of Merit race with a P797,332 earnings after eight legs of the ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour.
He also became the first player to defend a title in the three-year-old circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“Apo brings out the best in me,” said Pagunsan. “I love courses who forced you to think every shot.”
Bracing for a shootout after Aunzo caught up with him at the helm in the second round, Pagunsan even dropped behind as Aunzo birdied the opening hole.
But that was the best the former amateur hotshot, winner of the ICTSI Royal Northwoods leg last year, could muster as he fumbled with a double-bogey on the next and dropped another shot on No. 3.
Pagunsan pounced on that early Aunzo collapse, birdying the par-5 No. 3 for a two-shot wing and a three-stroke lead which he padded to six at the turn after another pair of birdies on Nos. 6 and 8.
Aunzo never recovered from that big stumble and flubbed a short birdie putt on No. 7 then spent the rest of the day chasing Saban in their spirited battle for runner-up honors in the 54-hole event backed by MJ Carr Golf Management, Jaguar, Land Rover, Studio 23, Balls TV, Srixon/Cleveland Golf, Callaway Golf, Odyssey and Golf Punk and media partners Business Mirror, Inquirer Golf Monthly, A Round of Golf, Pinoygolfer.com and Omnisource.
“After I missed a short birdie putt on the seventh, I knew it was over,” said Aunzo.
Saban and Aunzo birdied the final hole and split the combined P185,000 purse while rookie pro Rufino Bayron turned in his best finish so far at fourth with a 216 after a 72 worth P50,000.
“He (Pagunsan) is on a different level, pang-international,” said Saban.
Reigning RP Open champion Elmer Salvador placed fifth with a 217 after a 73 while Tony Lascuna, who lost to Benjie Magada in a three-hole playoff in the ICTSI Orchard leg two weeks ago, rallied with a 69 to gain a share of sixth with Artemio Murakami (71) and Ebarra Quiachon (72) at 218.
Cookie La’O also matched par 72 and finished tied for 10th with top amateur Jhonnel Ababa, who had a 73, at 219.
208 – J. Pagunsan (69-69-70)
212 – E. Saban (69-73-70), F. Aunzo (69-69-74)
216 – R. Bayron (74-70-72)
217 – E. Salvador (73-71-73)
218 – T. Lascuna (73-76-69), A. Murakami (74-73-71), E. Quiachon (70-76-72)
219 – C. La O’ (76-71-72), J. Ababa (am) (72-74-73)
220 – C. Casas (71-78-71), A. Fernando (75-70-75)
221 – R. Bisera (72-75-74). R. Bernis (70-77-74), Z. Gialon (73-73-75), A. Asistio (72-72-77)
222 – D. Becierra (am) (77-74-71), R. Sinfuego (73-75-74), R. Abaring (72-72-78).(pr)