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Southpaw

Tommy tinkers with tradition

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WHILE re-branding the National Golf Association of the Philippines as a hotbed of fresh ideas, Tommy Manotoc has done the unthinkable.

He has tinkered with tradition. Tradition like the Philippine Open.

Titillated enough? Let’s talk about this later.

Meanwhile, Manotoc, starting his four-year term as NGAP president in earnest, says things are looking up for local golf.

Tommy gushes over the commitment of tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan and his sports foundation to support all of his national sports association’s programs “with the end in view of getting Filipinos to play and shoot for medals at the Brazil Olympiad.”

Golf debuts as an Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“We have a clear shot in golf because it doesn’t involve size,” Tommy says in an apparent swipe at basketball and other sports where heft and height mean might. “Filipinos are of average built but as athletic as any race in the world.”

“Of course we will shoot for gold in the Southeast Asian Games and the Putra Cup first before training our sights on Rio,” according to Manotoc.

“We have identified several talents who will be ripe for the Games when 2016 comes around,” reports Tommy. He points to Filipino collegiate standouts in the United States like Jobim Carlos and Antonio Arboleda and Junior Golf world champion Rico Hoey as potential national team members.

His playing days are over, at least for now, concedes Tommy, one of Asia’s most recognizable golfers. He vows to spend most of his waking hours giving his sport a shot in the arm, even if it means tweaking a few things here and there, including the revered Philippine Open.

Befitting its stature, the Open used to kick off the Asian Tour every year. But as its commercial and star appeal waned through the years, Asia’s longest running national golf championship lost its allure and has tumbled in standing even in the eyes of homegrown golf stars.

Enter Tommy and the re-labeled NGAP.

As a money-spinning venture and to make local golf’s grandest soiree a destination for top-flight touring pros again, Manotoc and company sweetened the pot.

This year’s purse—$700,000—is the heftiest in Open history and made possible by a switch in allegiance.

Under Tommy’s initiative, the Open has left the Asian Tour in favor of the upstart but wealthy OneAsia Tour—known for lucrative golf championships in Japan, Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand.

“The new Philippine Open purse breaks the bank,” says Manotoc, although he is aware that the average Asia Tour pot is $1 million. “It is historic and Philippine golf needs it.

* * *

Two black ships, looking like giant leeches, have been seen to ply the ocean waters of the Ilocos again. Fisher folk in our quarter of the South China Sea, from Santiago to Santa Cruz, are bugged silly that these are the same vessels suspected of sucking black sand from the ocean floor under cover of darkness last year. The mining of the manganese ore appears unabated and tolerated, and has ruined beaches and disturbed fishing grounds.


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