By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE country’s first-ever gold medal in the Olympic Games could come from the sport of golf, an official of the National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) said.
In his recent session on the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, NGAP Secretary-General Bones Floro said the three-man Philippine Olympic golf team of Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan has a “realistic shot” at a podium finish, even win gold, in the Tokyo Games, owing to the form they are in and mindset they have heading into the competition.
“I’ve been vocal in saying that all three of our athletes have real, realistic chances of podium finishes, if not even gold. They have proven it, they have heart, they have determination, their work ethic is also amazing,” said Mr. Floro.
Mses. Saso and Pagdanganan and Mr. Pagunsan will be making their Olympic debut in Tokyo, where golf will be played for the second straight cycle of the quadrennial Games.
They earned qualification for being in the top 60 in their respective categories in the Olympic golf rankings. Ms. Saso sits at number 8 while Ms. Pagdanganan is at 44th. Mr. Pagunsan is 48th.
The Filipino golfers are also coming off strong showing in various tournaments in the lead-up, which bodes well for their respective Olympic bids, Mr. Floro said.
“Their confidence is at the peak. They’re doing very well regarding the mental aspect of their game.”
Ms. Saso, 19, won an historic US Women’s Open champion in June and recently tied for fifth in the Marathon Classic at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.
Mr. Pagunsan, 42, won the Mizuno Open in Japan on May 30 while Ms. Pagdanganan, 23, has been a steady competitor in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the latest with Ms. Saso at the Marathon Classic.
“They have been winning titles and competing with the best in the world. They know they can stand against the top players and defeat them,” Mr. Floro said.
Playing a factor, too, the NGAP secretary-general added, is the weather in Japan by the time of the golf competition, which suits the Filipino athletes.
“It will be summer in Tokyo which I think is going to be conducive and Pinoy-friendly. There, our players do not need many layers of clothing which makes it tougher for golf swings unlike if they play in cold weather. So that in itself, is an advantage for us.”
In the event anyone of the Filipino golfers, or all three of them, wins gold, they stand to get P30 million individually as incentives from the government, under Republic Act 10699, or the Coaches and Athletes’ Cash Incentives Act; the MVP Sports Foundation of Manny V. Pangilinan, and businessman Ramon S. Ang.
In Tokyo, Mr. Pagunsan will be the first to see action with the men’s golf competition scheduled for July 29 to Aug. 1. The women then follow suit on Aug. 4 to 7.
Competition venue is the Kasumigaseki Country Club.