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Old 12-05-2006, 10:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Juvic Pagunsan

Pagunsan claims Rookie of the Year Honour

Filipino Juvic Pagunsan was still a winner after his eye-catching runner-up finish at the UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday which saw him secure the Asian Tour's Rookie of the Year honour.

Hailed as the people's champion, the 28-year-old Pagunsan pushed Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara all the way at the Hong Kong Golf Club, taking the lead twice down the straight, before losing by one stroke.

A cheque of US$222,220 propelled Pagunsan to a high of seventh place on the latest UBS Order of Merit with a season's haul of US$288,794, good enough to see him claim one of the top awards offered on the Asian Tour every year.

His closest rival for the rookie award, Yasin Ali of England, failed to make the cut in Hong Kong and at 31st place on the ranking, Ali cannot overtake the talented Filipino at the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok next month.

"This is fantastic news," said Pagunsan today. "I'm really happy to win the Rookie of the Year title and this is a great moment for me. It's been a really good year and hopefully there will be many more."

Amongst the benefits that come with the Rookie of the Year honour is an invitation to the US PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii next January. Newly crowned Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit winner Jeev Milkha Singh, who leads with a record haul of US$573,442, is also exempted into the event.

Pagunsan, who enjoyed a stellar amateur career before turning professional in January, lived up to his tag as one of Asia's rising star with a confident display during the heat of battle in Hong Kong. With his fluid golf swing and a cheery disposition, Pagunsan was quickly embraced as a fan favourite amongst the large galleries.

Only a bogey on 16 which Lara birdied proved to be the difference but Pagunsan, smiling all the way till the end, knows his time will come. "I'm really happy with my runner-up finish. It wasn't my tournament to win, it was Lara's time," said Pagunsan, who now has four top-10s this year.

"I hit a bad drive on 16 and my second shot from heavy rough didn't come out. Im really happy I played well and there are many more tournaments to come for me. This is a good tournament. I have a lot of confidence now.

I always smile for the crowd, I dont want to be sad, he added.

There was relief for three players, Malaysia's Danny Chia, Australian Adam Groom and Scotsman Barry Hume, at the opposite end of the UBS Order of Merit as they safely finished 58th, 59th and 60th respectively to qualify for the Volvo Masters of Asia, exclusive to the top-60 players, at Thai Country Club from December 14-17.

But more importantly, it also ensured that the trio secured full playing rights for the 2007 Asian Tour season. All three players missed the cut in Hong Kong and endured an anxious weekend as they could have been overtaken by Adam Le Vesconte of Australia, American Rons Won and Clay Devers and China's Zhang Lian-wei.

However, the quartet failed to find at least a top-10 finish required which would have bumped off any one of the trio.

Chia said: "I feel quite lucky. When I missed the cut in Hong Kong, I really didn't expect to keep my card for next season. But I guess the other guys didn't quite do what the needed to at the weekend. I'm now looking forward to the Volvo Masters of Asia."



UBS ORDER OF MERIT TOP-20

1. Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 573,442

2. Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 365,471

3. Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 340,736

4. Andrew BUCKLE (AUS) 335,912

5. Charlie WI (KOR) 329,680

6. Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 291,818

7. Juvic PAGUNSAN (PHI) 288,794

8. Shiv KAPUR (IND) 266,177

9. Brad KENNEDY (AUS) 252,664

10. Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 243,193

11. Gaurav GHEI (IND) 239,892

12. Scott STRANGE (AUS) 232,418

13. Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 230,692

14. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 225,957

15. Anthony KANG (USA) 217,122

16. WANG Ter-chang (TPE) 212,503

17. LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 209,184

18. Unho PARK (AUS) 172,915

19. Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 165,448

20. LEE Sung (KOR) 159,454
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