Young team acquits self
I just arrived from the 2011 Nomura Cup, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Team Championship, held in Fiji last week. Staged every two years, it is the largest amateur golf championship held in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines is one of the Cup’s founders.
The NGAP board was hesitant to send a team all the way to Fiji to participate because of the heavy cost involved. However, I have always considered this tournament a very healthy way to expose our golfers to international competition.
Hence, I personally decided to guarantee the reservation and booking fees being asked for in advance by the organizing body.
A week before we left, we were able to get pledges from the Philippine Sports Commission and local golf patron ICTSI to help cover some of the expenses.
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We put together the youngest team ever in the country’s history.
We had 13-year-old Rupert Zaragosa, who was the youngest in the entire field last week; 17-year-old Clyde Mondilla; 18-year-old Marcel Puyat, and 21-year-old Zanie Boy Gialon. Jobim Carlos, our top-ranked amateur, could not make it due to his early freshman orientation at University of San Francisco.
This team did not fail us. We finished in sixth place, beating China, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong and our arch rival Thailand.
Marcel showed terrific potential with a new-look swing developed under the tutelage of Chris Walkey of Palm Desert.
Zanie Boy’s experience and hard work paid off, as he played the role of team stopper on the days when he was needed.
And Clyde is now beginning to reap the benefits of playing international events, which he started doing only last year, thanks to the sponsorship of ICTSI.
But the revelation of the tournament was “Dodong” Zaragoza, who was our best scorer and counted on all four days.
As I watched him play, I was awed at how this young boy of 13 and perhaps not even five feet tall, held his own and played the game with a confidence that in my mind only experience could have taught him.
But it was his performance at the Philippine junior amateur and the Philippine amateur, which he both won early this year, that gave me the idea that this young boy had the capacity to play and compete in the men’s division and carry the country’s flag.
It was these two tournaments that made me put his name on the list of players to this year’s Nomura Cup.
I realized that what Rupert lacks in height, he makes up for with his intelligent play and big fighting heart.
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Both tournaments were held in quality golf courses (Alabang Country Club and Wack Wack’s fabled East course) and had the match play format, which is designed to recognize if you have “heart,” as they say in golf, and to build “heart” if you do not have one yet.
It is also a format that teaches you how to think under intense pressure provided by an opponent breathing down your back.
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These are some of the tournaments that the NGAP, its sponsors and golf clubs, should help make happen.
Providing quality tournaments played in quality golf courses is certain to boost golf development in the country as Rupert’s performance has shown.
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