A six-year absence did not prevent Guam’s Louie Sunga from having a triumphant return in the 24th Governor’s Tournament of Champions held over the weekend at the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort.
Sunga shot a 1-under par 71 in the first round last Saturday and hit a 1-over par 73 in yesterday’s second and final round for his 144 and a six-stroke win over deposed champion Ryan Kim in the Championship Flight.
“It’s great to be back,” said Sunga, who topped the same flight in 2008 and 2009, and had his second back-to-back in 2011 and 2012 before missing the next six editions of the TOC.
“As usual and fortunately, every time I come here, I’m almost always greeted by a nice playing condition. TOC and Laolao’s course have been very kind to me,” the Pacific Games veteran said.
Before Mother Nature cooperated with Sunga and the more than 200 golfers that joined the weekend tournament, it’s been raining on Saipan for nearly a week. With the inclement weather, participants were already bracing for the tough course and weather conditions so for good measure, Sunga played a couple of rounds with the local golfers before the TOC event.
“I am happy that the weather was pretty good in the first round. Then in the second, the wind was a bit of a challenge, but other than that I also had a nice round,” the 48-year-old golfer said.
Sunga established a good lead in the first round after firing a 37 and 34 on the front and back nines for a five-shot advantage over Kim, whose two-year reign in the tournament ended.
“I got into my rhythm when I started the back nine, so that’s why I was able to get a good lead,” said Sunga.
The Guam golfer birdied the first three holes on the back nine of the west course—all par-4s—the 429-yard No. 10, 390-yard No. 11, and 338-yard No. 12. Sunga had a near perfect game in the last nine if not for a bogey on the par-3, 202-yard No. 17. He saved par at No. 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18.
For the second round, Sunga switched to the east course where he had pars in the first three holes to keep the upper hand. The five-time champion then had two bogeys in the next four holes, but made up for them with a birdie on the par-4, 305-yard No. 8 to end up with a 37. For his last nine holes, Sunga also finished strong, as his birdie on the par-5, 545-yard No. 18 gave him a 36.
Meanwhile, Kim tallied a 76 in the first round and 74 in the second for his two-day total of 150. The 2017 and 2018 champion was one shot ahead of third placer J.J. Atalig, who recorded a 77 and 74. Fen Chung Jin (77 and 76) and Franco Santos ( 80 and 77) rounded out the Top 5 of the Championship Flight of the tournament that aimed to raise funds for beautification projects on Saipan and for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts.
Results of other flights will be reported in Saipan Tribune’s Tuesday edition.