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After 2-gold Asian Games stint, NGAP chief ponders on one question: what’s next?

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:45 AM September 09, 2018

Yuka Saso of the Philippines celebrates winning the gold medal on her last putt during the final round of the women’s individual golf event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

Two gold medals. One bronze. That’s what it took to draw out one of the most reclusive, spotlight-shy patrons in sports.

The women’s golf team had just carved out the best performance among the Philippine bets to the 18th Asian Games and already, Martin Lorenzo, the president of the National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP), had gathered some of his key officials to plan on how to build on the momentum of the victory.

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“There’s an opportunity to take advantage of the mileage that we’re getting,” said Lorenzo, the former owner of Pancake House, who sold the food giant before purchasing Hacienda Luisita. “We now have heroes on pedestals who can now help us develop golf.”

The heroes—heroines, to be apt—are Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and LK Go. Saso won the gold medal in the individual women’s event while Pagdanganan finished with a bronze. Together, the three catapulted the Philippines to the women’s team gold.

And that, Lorenzo said, is the starting point of a very bold mission.

“The hardest part is we’re starting very high with the golds,” he said. “Now the question is: How do we move forward?”

To answer the question, Lorenzo gathered a few key personnel—NGAP secretary general Bones Floro and board member Kit Angeles, who handles grassroots—on an overcast Sunday afternoon in his posh residence near Alabang Country Club to toss ideas around.

Lorenzo revealed a two-pronged plan: Form a steady stream of talents and help the girls reach the next level.

“Yuka, Bianca and LK. Where will they be five years from now? We need more players like them from the grassroots,” Lorenzo said.

That is Angeles’ turf.

“We have to start with the underprivileged kids to see if we can find talent there,” said Angeles. “It’s going to take a lot of time and hard work but we want to produce more kids like Yuka.”

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But while talent replenishing is crucial, the NGAP wants to pave a path to the Tokyo Olympics for its current talents. Floro admits the road will be challenging and if they do get to the Olympics, they cannot simply ride on their Asiad success.

“Remember, pros play in the Olympics,” said Floro.

“But we will do our share to continue our amateur programs. There are different qualification systems and several qualifying events and we will help send our players to participate in these qualifiers,” he added.

Lorenzo said that he simply inherited and built on the success of the previous NGAP leadership, but it is clear that there is a different vibe in the golf landscape today.

Pondering on it, Lorenzo said: “I asked Bones what he thinks is our biggest contribution to golf and you know what he said?

“We just let [the athletes] play golf. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”

It’s clear golf is currently in good hands.

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TAGS: Asian Games, Martin Lorenzo, National Golf Association of the Philippines, Philippine women’s golf team
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