Meet the Golfer: Juvic Pagunsan
Honma Tour professional Juvic Pagunsan tees off during the final round, Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia PGA Championship - photo courtesy of OneAsia
We caught up with Honma Tour professional Juvic Pagunsan during the practice day before the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia PGA Championship at Damai Indah’s BSD Course. The course is a firm favourite of Juvic’s as he claimed his first and so far only Asian Tour victory here during the 2007 Pertamina Indonesia Presidents Invitational, where he finished with a birdie-eagle to pip India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar to win the title.
Juvic Pagunsan looked good all week and was in contention from Round One finding his form at one of his favourite courses in Asia. Posting rounds of: 67-64-68-69 to finish at -20 and a tie for second place earning US$87,500, one shot behind the champion, Michio Matsumura from Japan.
How old were you when you first took up the game of golf?
I was 15 when I first took up the game of golf.
Your father was a professional golfer in the Philippines, how important was he towards your development to become a professional golfer yourself?
I grew up on a golf course, and me and our friends from 15 onwards used to play every Monday, which was ‘caddies day.’ This was free for me. Sometimes me and my friends would even sleep in the clubhouse. Yes, my father was definitely a big inspiration for me to become a golfer.
How old were you when you first shot even par or better?
17 years old, so I guess I developed relatively fast for a golfer.
In 2011, you were the first golfer from the Philippines to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit, having achieved this remarkable feet, you then decided to move to the Japan Golf Tour for the 2012 season. What was the motivation behind this decision?
To be honest, I just took my opportunity to compete on a different tour, but to be honest I still love playing on the Asian Tour. After all this is where I am from.
In 2007, you won your first and only Asian Tour Victory here at BSD during the Pertamina Indonesia Presidents Invitational under remarkable circumstances, finishing with birdie and eagle. Where you aware that you had to make an eagle to win the tournament standing on the 18th tee box?
On the #17 hole I noticed Gaganjeet Bhullar had made a birdie to go to -17, then once again before the #18 hole I checked the scoreboard and he had made a birdie once again. Having made the green in two on the 18th hole Par 5 I was aware that I was 1 down. I hit a perfect six iron to reach the green and I gave myself a perfect chance to make an eagle to win the tournament, I was feeling very confident with my putter during the round, so anything was possible. I made the putt and won my first Asian Tour event.
In 2012 you qualified for the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, you then went on to be the first Fillipino to make the cut at a major championship, what did you take from the experience?
On the final day I had the honour of playing with Retief Goosen. It was a great experience playing with this legend of the game and he gave me same good advice for continuing to develop my game as a professional golfer. On the third day I played with Pablo Larrazabal, which was fun being able to chat to him in Spanish which helped me feel more and ease during the round. The weather was too cold for me, I missed a 1ft putt for par during the event because my hands were so cold I lost all my feeling with my putter blade.
There are many examples of golfers who reached the pinnacle of their games above the age of 40: Ben Hogan, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara. How do you feel about your game now you are 35, and how do you plan to keep improving?
I want to make an effort to maintain my form. I am confident that if I keep practising hard I will still have many opportunities to win professional events. Now that I am older, I am doing more strength and physical exercises this is something I never used to do In my younger days.
Honma Tour professional Juvic Pagunsan in action during the 2014 Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia PGA Championship – Photo Courtesy of OneAsia
Physically you are 5ft 6 inches tall and weigh 62 kg, hardly ‘big’ by today’s standards, yet you still manage to hit the ball consistently over 275 yards with your driver. What is the secret behind getting these figures with your small physique?
I think my swing speed is a little faster than most players my size. A lot of my distance comes from good timing and technique, alongside my swing speed. I have been doing some physical training for the first time in may career recently. This is really helping my game and increasing my length on the course.
Golf is a time consuming sport, what do you do in your off time when you are not playing golf? Any particular hobbies you enjoy?
I like to play basketball back in the Philippines. I also do physical conditioning. Often I like jogging every day to keep me in shape when I am not playing golf and in between events. I also enjoy the odd game of volleyball.
In 2012 you were fined 25,000 pesos by The Philippine Golf Tour and suspended for the rest of the season for withdrawing from the North v South match-play special event organized by this local tour. Why did you withdraw from the event?
During 2012 I had a hectic schedule competing on both the Philippine Tour and The Japan Tour. Also my wife had just given birth to our second child at the time. Every night when my wife went to sleep often It was my turn to take care of my baby boy. During the day my wife took care of my baby boy, during the evening my wife would rest and it was my turn. It is really important that golfers get the right amount of sleep to perform at a high level. My tiredness was beginning to really show with my performances and I told my captain I will do my best to complete the 36 holes during the second day which I did. The third day was the final day and I had a drunk a couple of beers the night before hand to relax, however when I awoke the next day my body felt weak, and tired, I only felt 50% and with an event scheduled for the next week in Japan having arrived at the course, me and my captain decided it was best if I didn’t play. After all the team were also 4 up at the time. That is why I withdrew from the event.
Did you team end up winning the tournament?
No… <laughs> so I think this is why I was fined by the Philippine Golf Tour committee.