Using only 11 clubs, pro golfer wins Japan Tour event, earns spot in Open Championship

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Juvic Pagunsan, who hails from the Philippines and at age 43, has spent the last decade on the Japan Tour, will step up onto a much bigger stage in July.

Pagunsan earned a spot in the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in England after winning a tournament using just 11 clubs.

The tournament was the Mizuno Open, also known as “The Gateway to the Open.” The reason he used just 11 clubs is that due to COVID precautions, caddies are only allowed to follow their golfers in carts so Pagunsan lightened his bag a bit and went on to win his first Japan Tour title.

“It has been 10 years, 10 years. It took me 10 years to win. Now I am relieved,” he said after his round. “I get to go to UK. I can go again. Could I get my visa? How is the quarantine measures?”

The top two finishers in the tournament, in fact, earned invitations to the Open, with Pagunsan also receiving a trophy similar to the Claret Jug, although smaller.

He picked a good time to win. The Gateway Open has become an important qualifying event.

Every year, officials from R&A travels all the way to Mizuno Open with the Claret Jug, and it will be presented in a glass casings with lock and security guard’s watch at the 1st tee box. Winner of the Mizuno Open will be presented with a very similar type of the trophy. Also, the invitation to The Open will be given to the top 2 players.

How did Pagunsan choose the 11 clubs? He took out his 3, 4, 6, and 8 irons and loaded up on wedges, keeping his pitching wedge and adding 50, 52, 58-degree clubs. He also kept his 19-degree utility club in the bag, which he says he hit 254 yards for his second shot on the 6th hole. When Pagunsan got to the 198-yard 16th, he said since he didn’t have his 6 he used his 7 and “hit it a little stronger.”

Pagunsan played in the Open Championship seven years ago, shooting 76-74 to miss the cut by three at Royal Liverpool, as Rory McIlroy won his first and only Claret Jug.

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