Southpaw

Tommy Manotoc to Royal and Ancient Golf Club

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11:37 PM April 6th, 2013

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By: Percy D. Della, April 6th, 2013 11:37 PM

IT’S as tight as a Scottish Highlands drum. It’s as fine as Shetland wool. It’s the Royal and Ancient Golf Club—one of golf’s oldest and most prestigious—and often referred to as the home of the game.

Founded in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1754, the exclusive club is about to welcome its first Filipino member ever.

Occasional Inquirer sports columnist Tommy Manotoc, president of the National Golf Association of the Philippines is poised to become one of a few individuals admitted to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club after a very selective invitation process yearly.

“You don’t apply they invite you based on your record,” Tommy said in a phone interview. “You win an invitation with backing from enough existing members to convince the club’s membership committee.”

A familiar face in Asian golf, Tommy is now what’s called a “waiting member” of the venerated club. Resisting turning pro, Manotoc, 64, remains one of the region’s most formidable amateur golfers. His passion for the game has served Filipino golfers well, more so now as head of the nation’s governing body for the sport.

Tommy said he accepted the club’s invitation last October. It will take anywhere from six months to a year to get elected as member.  In Manotoc’s case, as an out-of-country member.

If you are an average golfer, becoming one of the exclusive club’s 2,500 members worldwide is next to impossible.

Manotoc pines for St. Andrews to play and meet people who are movers and shakers in the golf universe.

When he became NGAP president, Tommy rebranded golf’s national sports association as a house of fresh ideas, a move that excited sports godfather Manny V. Pangilinan.

As a stamp of approval from the business mogul, MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio now sits as treasurer of the NGAP.

For starters, Tommy switched the Philippine Open’s link from the Asian Tour to the more lucrative OneAsia Tour—a bold step that turned some of his friends into foes.

A sweeter pot from the OneAsia Tour made sense to restore the allure of the region’s granddaddy of national golf championships to touring world pros and local standouts known to take flight for richer tournaments abroad.

Tommy also has connected with a group of companies collectively known as the R&A tasked to maintain golf rules, run the British Open and foster the game with financial support to golf NSAs worldwide. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club relinquished these duties in 2004.

Dennis Wall, R&A’s Asia Pacific director, recently pledged bigger assistance for the NGAP’s base expansion—euphemism for grassroots development program which is a contentious issue in local golf circles.

For most Filipino youngsters, a golf course is so far-flung it might as well be the moon.

* * *

Erstwhile Gintong Alay director Mike M. Keon withdrew Tuesday from the mayoral race in Laoag City.

Before his sudden about-face, Keon, the ex-governor of Ilocos Norte, emerged from a period of reflection and announced he was running with gusto against two rivals, both surnamed Fariñas, in next month’s elections.

“So much pressure,” Mike intimated by text. “I will tell you why (I withdrew) in the future.”

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