Golf News, Review, Feature Articles, Golf Gossips, Golf Stories…and More!

Could be news to you, easy-reading for others; information or just plain gossips?

To each its own but certainly they are all golf-related!

BREXIT…& wat abt my putt?

Underlying, technological innovations bring about the brave new world the present has yet to get comfortable with, less so adjusted to…& meanwhile, elimination and replacement processes continue…and pain!

November 2016 Kulim: A client wrote recently for a golf package. The initial exchange of pleasantries quickly and inevitably touched on the subject of Brexit…you guessed it, he’s a Brit! Before I could bait for the ‘I’ or an ‘O’, he politely requested that the B-word not be mentioned again as it had exposed radically conflicting views and aroused too much emotion from discussions within the family…the tone suggested just short of wrecking it!

If I could ‘chip in with my ‘P’ with a newly-wrapped grip’, Brexit was none more than a high profile outburst (albeit one proved uncontrollable in the end!) to a fast changing tech-dominated globalization which characteristically by-passed the value-trickling processes of traditional commerce and saw huge profits being made in a relatively short time with a resultant wealth distribution abnormally skewed to a very few, and trending!
If you ask me, it’s a phenomenon but one that’s none more sinful than finally finding the lost ball on a weird day on the course…in the cup!…and it’s an Albatross!
Similar outbursts could already have happened to others experiencing the same except that not many were high profile enough like having the EU and a greater part of the world affected and therefore gone unnoticed. In the case of the Brits, throw in the fuses of emotion on sovereignty, the not-so-great-now GBP, immigrant workers etc. and wallah! you’ve got what you got…a delightful cucumber sandwich!
[NOTE: The cucumber slices must be very fresh, skinned and real thin to provide a cool and subtly crunchy texture, smoothened by butter to hold the bread slices seamlessly and firmly together and yet…clearly delineating!]
Some call it an end result of ‘undemocratising by democracy’…but just last week or so the high court seemed insistent for a ‘rewind’ or something as if emotion had not run high enough! It may not be too inappropriate to sum it up as a knee-jerk reaction except that it just might be too much in a slow-mo for one to imagine.
Some food for thought, is it a mere coincidence that of late so many super-rich volunteer in unprecedented manners to donate almost all of what they make…not the weekend 3 or 5 balls win but hundreds of million of $s? Or, is such willingness, seemingly fully uncompelled, the result of a perversed psychology at work, granted that a donation put into good use is always a good deed? Doesn’t it still look anomalous if not a little obscene at least when for an average battler, it always is: “Hey, every shot I sank in the cup is what I’ve always tried hard in making…don’t take it away from me, please!”
Hmm…so what’s it got to do with my putt?
Nothing too directly really (Just like the up-slope line must be a little to the higher side for a possible curve back to fall into the cup), except that the fast pace of technological changes has on the one hand made easier for our quality golf trip service to all our customers, by its very nature, it also on the other constantly threatens to eliminate if we are not up with it – it means a constant adding of capital while the good service we provide are always there – a less than proportionate return on higher technological investment for most humble services – something perhaps the friendly corner-shop grocer might be able to articulate better.
A new platform will soon emerge which allows visitors to click through for all the golf and holiday requirement (as against the person-to-person contact like you experience with us) and end with a credit card purchase of what’s in the shopping cart, all in the comforts of the arm-chair and on a hand-held device perhaps. Well, this is a high tech investment to cater for what basically should be a service with a personal touch just like you would hope for when you touch down at the airport of your destination. The choice remains yours whether to go for the fixed high prices of convenience on such a platform or for personalized services on a golf trip that you should experience.
A recent enquiry at a local bank for opening a new account with emphasis on good online electronic fund transfer service was met by a shocking response from the officer in-charge of the floor at the bank: “…online services will only take jobs away!” Well, progress by regression, or the other way round anyone can decide…but the fear seemed evident…albeit not necessarily legitimate.
Of late, our website was attacked by malware and ‘blanked’ briefly. In the short scramble to recovery, we were ‘extorted’ (owing to urgency) by some software peddlers who could well have been the perpetrators themselves!
And, not to brag, we even detected attempts by a well known competitor of ours (Want to know who…you probably know them too?) trying to re-direct search hits on our website to theirs by way of bot malware deployed by paid ‘black hats’!
If we could sum up the lamenting: Just like the long and short sticks in your bag, they all look very different too but they are all there for one holy feat, and so do all these technology things, like it or not, they are part and parcel of it all!If Brexit is the ‘Head Lines’, the ‘Breaking News!’ occupying fully your news screen and prints at the top, it only means it’s more eyeball-catching; others of the same essence are taking place at the same time, likely much less noticed and given a thought.
To the client who prompted this newsletter, incidentally…or may be not, did the election of the new president across the vast ocean not in some ways at least share the same reason, no?
And that’s our putt really…brace it for New World 5.0 (?)…it sure won’t be the last!

Will WATER Lift Our Game?

Actually the less of it might just do the job

June 2015 Kunming:

“We’ll be experiencing a Super El Nino this year…”

Yawn, yawn…what big news coming from the TV weather presenter but, if it concurs with the experts on climate change, please take heed, it WILL BE more than just severe at least, already more than 2,000 people have died of extreme heat thus far!

Over water, countries have gone to war in the past, Rwandan genocide has been linked back to it, future wars are more likely to be fought over it than over oil, Country ‘E’ has demanded Country ‘e’ stop construction of a mega-dam on the Nile and, as if a 3-putt isn’t bad enough already, weather intelligence is warning that the world is ‘standing on a precipice’!

Will there be a billabong, one wonders, at the bottom of it if we must tread so consciously forward despite all!

In southern China, some prominent golf clubs (Quite a few of our guests must have Liked before) have been ordered to return land of water reserves; a noble idea to priorities environmental needs over the decadence of a few if not for the real reason of an urgent need for the ecologic survival of the region.

Closer to hearts…“Wats condition o d green mate?”

If the grass is not yet a painted green like they do in California these days because of the persistent drought, golf clubs there are tearing out grass in places that are not affecting the game, and that means only islands of real green grass will be provided at strategic spots on the fairways for landings and take-offs.

If the scenario persists, soon, we can’t just spray the shots anywhere we like anymore and we’ll require to be quite accurate to get the ball from-Tee-to-Island(s)-to-Green. But that should not be too difficult for the regulars at some courses like the Stone Quarry Course of Mission Hills Haikou where large tract of the fairways are made of waste land modified to resemble an abandoned quarry with volcanic rock pieces of various sizes and old quarry equipment strewn all over, some half buried in the hard and dry ground, for the ball to fly over. On a ‘good’ day, the ball might land on such a rock face and bounce for extra distance, except that the bounced flight might sometimes not be in the direction of the green!

And so, if you’ve read this far, mentally at least the entry level to the game has been raised and an average golfer by now should be close to a standard at least of landing on an island green in one, anytime!

Unless we choose to forget, World Sky Juice Day falls on the 22nd. of March…just in case there’s still some for celebration.

Squaring the Club Head:

An Endeavour of a Lifetime?
A seemingly simple act of bringing the club head back to its original squared position could well mean a long, hard process if possibly becoming an obsession may not be the only end productJune 2014 Nagoya: At some stage, the level of play for most of us social golfers (More precisely, the enthusiastic ones!), will hit the ceiling. We’ve come to the stage of only looking good on mat but always hoping for the best on the course.We are at the cross-road of either morphing into the higher level of play or to slowly but surely fade away as the body matures further.You might have seen on several occasions great players like Tiger Woods falling off balance hitting from some unfriendly spots during major tournament? What we saw were only the extremes; similar encounters of lesser degree confront us almost all the time on the course.I have observed some real Pros hitting what I’d call ‘perfect shots’ on mat and they have not been winning much on the circuit. High on the list of suspicions is that not enough efforts and thinking have been put into transforming the well-honed skills to bringing the club head back to its original position, on any surface! (Keyword is ‘Thinking’ though!) Squaring the club head is easier but bringing the club head back to its original position is a totally different story, but both are essential to a good hit. The entire process involves different posturing, weight distribution experiences, angle of muscles pull, some contortions etc., the greater the undulation the more testing it will be.Take a bucket off the mat and test it yourself on grass (NOTE: Please don’t place the ball on the same spot as otherwise you might as well be doing the usual on the mat!). It should not be the % accuracy of your hits that counts but the feel of control over your shots for landing on target that really matters (Accuracy follows control anyway) and, there’s no need for a watch over as only you can and should feel the mechanics within from start to finish.

A journalist who had the good fortune of playing at a major Pro-Am remarked specifically in the short article about his experience there that Ms Christina Kim of the USA, his playing partner, hit the ball at the sweet spot almost all of her shots! (More about Ms Christina Kim) We need not be too experienced to realize without a proper training it would be quite impossible for that to happen on the course; it underlines the ability required of the golfer to make possible the club head be squared again as it was originally intended.

If you think the title description of this article piques your desire for a better golfing experience, you might want to get into the crux of the transformation but be warned, it won’t happen overnight, in fact it entails a long and lonely process with much determination and patience and most of all, a passion to graduate from the mat to the grass, so to speak.

A Japanese golf club that hopefully I will be visiting has on its website the catch phrase: “Golf is Life in Itself!”, without any elaboration or indications that the conclusion must necessarily derive from the subject matter; I suspect it more than covers at the least.

Well, not sure how much it is in your own measures given the penchant there for refinement for almost everything as a reference but surely, some measure it will be, no? (If only you’d admit…oh, you’re so vain!   Really?Happy Golfing!

Roaring Rory:

Are Golfers Mere Mortals?

June 2011 Siem Reap: The way old Rory McIlroy stormed into the final round with an 8-shot lead at the US Open now under way, winning or losing tonight and/or new records aside, it more than sufficiently struck as a repeat in no less a fashion a decade ago when Tiger Woods became the overnight wunderkind of golf.

Perhaps the Sunday meltdown at the British Open last year of this very young and talented golfer was a blessing in disguise for otherwise the scintillating supernova of golf as displayed in his first 3 rounds at Congressional would not have paired so closely in significance with Tiger’s emergence; the closer the match up, the more define the greatness of the respective golfers.

Underlying the similarity of the romp by Tiger in his days and now McIlroy into the lead (If you missed, catch Phil on repeat, yes, Phil Mickelson ‘the Contender’, struggling in an almost inevitably futile attempt at hoping for a win) is a saying that a calf never fears a tiger! – There was nothing to lose, just like McIlroy himself said of his performance at the last British Open: He just went in thinking like he’s Tiger! (Is anyone handicapped here?). Tiger never repeated his great 15 under par win, or at least not in the fashion he took to rock the golf world. In fact, having grown into prominence, or no longer a calf, he came often under tremendous pressure in winning the rest of his many majors and other big tournament, and losing some in fact! And, of late (The last couple of majors at least, his domestic problems partly contributing albeit), he only showed his old brilliance when the pressure of winning was no longer there.

While you enjoy viewing the final round of the US Open tonight, would you think in this new era of emerging hard-hitting young golfers all over the world, would McIlroy be any different in time to come?

Phil The Thrill Again!

If Phil is ‘the thrill’ again, could you be one as well on your own?Sept 2010 Kulim: They say, your golf reflects how well you do in your career (of a professional golfer or of any other profession). If it’s true, it’s none more so illustrated on the final day of the just concluded Deutsche Bank Championship at Norton, Massachusetts. Phil Mickelson bungled in his attempt, yet again, to topple Woods as the No. 1 golfer in the world (Read about:Deutsche Bank Championship); oh..so near and yet so far, again! If you think, with the number of opportunities he’s had over the last year or so to dislodge The Great (At least doing it right for once like Vijay Singh did some years ago), you might as well be reading the synopsis of ‘Phil: The Great Professional Golfer’ – Ever so good and skillful and yet was never able to live up to the greater potential that most think he had.

There are some good years still for Phil before one could be all conclusive of what he could have achieved. But looking back, from Phil ‘The Thrill’ – of ‘The Best Golfer not having won a Major’ – to Phil ‘The Thrill’ again –

this time of ample opportunities to replace Woods – one might be inclined to agree there must be lots that the player himself has to buck up apart from being just good at the craft of the sport like Phil himself certainly is. If a huge rock many times the weight of a person is about to roll off the edge of a cliff, all it needs is a little finger to push the rock forward; what could be easier with a Tiger Woods who’s got a personal ‘OB’ problem no less the weight of the huge rock about to tip over sitting squarely on his head!

Certainly, I would feel jittery if I was in the position of Phil finding him only needing such a low score to become the new #1 on the several occasions; I am not Phil, nor have I ever been in any comparable standing in my career/profession.

But, it could be you for the latter; and if so, would you rather remain – You ‘The Thrill’?

What is GOLF really?

A four-letter word you dream day-in and day-out and yet finding the hole elusive!

June 2009 Kulim: Hate it when I’ve to keep typing the word but not really finding the hole! But, it’s quite amazing to find so many people getting drawn to the game and yet it is apparently one of the most unrepresented amongst so many popular sports. Some keep hitting balls for years on ends hoping to find out what the game is all about while others just flash their Merc/BMVay/Dub just to be identified as a golfer!

You may have your insight; but let’s share what we really suspect!

1. Trigonometry of 2 Triangles
Golf is a game of playing with mainly two triangles – with the shoulders forming one with the spine-end, and with the grip for the other – going smoothly round the common axis that’s your spine, simple!

If you find 3D-trigo’s interesting in your school days, you are likely a bore but more likely a great man today! The irony of it all is that if you can really solve the problems arising from these two triangles for your swing, it merely makes you a golfer!

2. Game of a Strange Ritual
It is a game of a strange ritual of squeezing your intestines hard so they become lean and tough. Hopefully in the process it rids the thick layer of fats surrounding the once-upon-a-time slim waist of yours so you could be ready almost immediately after the round for more ‘fattydefloop’! And they say, to sqeeze the intestines properly you have to do it fully in one direction to be followed immediately in the other by a ‘proper roll-over’ to complete the finish! Some sausage-makers talking, I’d say!

3. The Art of Carvery
If you are not much into sausage-making, golf provides an opportunity to strut your stuff in the art of carvery – instead of reducing a chunky roast into slivers of la delizioso with a carvery knive (Every which way, it’s still the easier),

We recommend wearing a helmut before coming for the play-off with us!you use the wedges to carve the optimum flight path along the line of the terrain near the green so the ball will land at just where it should be. Not an easy task, mind you! You will need the correct technique, imagination, concentration, finesse, a touch of artistry and many different strokes of play to make all these happen along the ups-and-downs of the area. And, the nearer to the hole, the more it requires more delicate touches, the more difficult is the carvery!

4. Golf hurts! …ooh!
Golf is also a game that hurts if you have poor technique.

But that’s nothing if you think it could actually hurt yourwall…well, that’s nothing too, it can be easily re-erected! Unless if it’s the…et! Ooh, that really hurts!

5. You may not always be what you think you are, Mr. President, Sir!
It is a game that tells you are not always the master of your own goodself you think you are! Just observe, you arrive at the driving range to begin a quick warm up for your round of the day. You are fresh and ready, and you hit well..ah well…for the first few shots, yes! And, pretty soon it’s all over as you find what you command is not really followed by you – the body supposedly responding. At the end of the day, you retain some sense of self-respect in picking up the bill.

6. More to come

NO Pain, NO Gain

If there’s proper input, there’ll inevitably be fruitful output; how some with top facilities are not producing top players the way it should

July 2016 Siem Reap: Some time back we talked about how a mountainous country like South Korea with hardly any open spaces for proper driving ranges was able to produce so many top players within a relatively short span of time if you think, M. A. S. H. and the brillance of Samsung more or less stand side-by-side in the long spectrum of our memory. Some might say it’s ‘out of the blues’ but certainly practising in ‘bird-cage’-like driving ranges so ubiquitous in the country could not have contributed so much.

And now you have Thailand joining the rank…watching last night the very relaxed and confident Ariya Jutanungarn hitting the fairways on almost all of her t-shots and getting a prospect for a birdie or better on every green, memory flash back to her compatriot Pornanong Phatlum duelling to the last hole with Feng Shanshan of China at the CIMB European Tour event in Kuala Lumpur a few years back…and her sister Moriya is also performing well…whether she eventually wins the British Open tonight is actually quite irrelevant…Thailand has arrived!
While I do not have insight into the now well-known game plan of ‘manufacturing a success’ in golf as in the case of the South Korean (if having created the Haryu is not proof enough), my years of visiting Thailand can certainly vouch with certainty that much had been done over the years that resulted in the emergence of many fine players, both men and women, that stamp the mark of the country as a force to reckon with in golf…a case in point is the small gesture of encouragement in renting worn-out balls to school children at a much discounted price…day after day school kids, still in their school uniform, gather at driving ranges in the afternoon, practising enthusiatically.
If there’s proper input, there’ll inevitably be fruitful output.
            *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Side-tracking a little…
Watching her (Ariya) swinging with perfect technique and flawless, if not regardlessly, stretching fully with her 2-Iron for t-offs on long holes to match the very experienced Katrina Matthew…I wonder if we were watching the emergency of yet another Rory MacIlroy, a Yani Tsen, a Michelle Wie…or even a Tiger Woods? In all, there’s a near total carefreeness in attitude and appearance when taking a shot…and the shots would all turn out to be text book cases of how to make a good shot! And…in all too, these shots happened almost exclusively when these greats were at the very early stage of their success…the days of innocence?

The Jakarta Indonesia Open 2009

Nervousness?

February 2009 Chiangmai: Going into the final hole with a commanding two-stroke lead, you would think nothing could go wrong for leader Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, or for that matter if it was any of the professionals that we are so used to watching these days, especially if the last was a less-than-imaginative, lengthy 612-yard Par-5 with the grass on the green thick enough to leave traces of the ball, and certainly not giving much hope for anything more than a birdie, if not always a regular par at best. Already at the penultimate Par-4 17, Jaidee switched to safe-play mode by tee-ing off with an iron obviously hoping to just par the last two holes and the title would be his. The commentators of the TV channel certainly thought so even as the then very self-assured Jaidee was shown walking on the fairway to the ball for his third shot landing on the last green, smiling at the camera and waving to whoever was watching at home.

If you recall, Rocco Mediate of the US was more or less doing the same at the US Open 2008 going into the last hole where he unusually missed the putt and thereby having to enter a play-off with Tiger Woods to whom he found the trophy eventually slipped off his grip.

As it happenned on this New Kuta Golf & Ocean View Golf Course of Bali for the Jakarta Indonesia Open, what would have been a simple pitching shot to the hole for Jaidee, it went too long and nearly found the wall of the club house. The putt back to the hole for the 4th. – about 12-15 feet – again went too long for comfort – 5 feet off the hole.

Was Jaidee, who would have become the Asian player with the most wins ever on European Tour if he bagged this, nervous when found himself under the spotlight?

The story of this article is to highlight the need to maintain the level of concentration however assured it might seem of what’s on the scoreboard, at least till the last putt. It may seem self-concluding when the fast-approaching-40 Jaidee could well had been nervous after not winning big for the last few years. We leave you to come to your own conclusion based on your own golfing experience and judgement on what ought and ought not happen.

Jaidee, for all the confusion that must have surrounded him after finding his approach shot having gone unusually long and then immediately repeated it on the putt to the hole for a safe par must count himself lucky at this crucial moment of play having had to face a young if not extremely talented opponent in Alexander Noren of Sweden. Noren had just made an eagle followed by a birdie in the last two holes making him the only player that could have any chance of taking the title from Jaidee. It could have become another classic finish of the last US Open if Noren had not missed the birdie putt and Jaidee did not make the 5-foot putt for a par. But was it nervousness alone that caused the uncalled for ‘excitement for the spectators’, anxiety for Jaidee?

Rocco Mediate Succumbed to Seduction

US Open 2008: Where Tiger Woods proved an ultimate magician in himself and Rocco Mediate unwittingly became a victim of his own vanity

June 2008 Chiangmai: Rocco Mediate said after his third round that to be paired with Tiger for the final round was his wish. It didn’t happen exactly that way but the magic touch of Tiger Woods on Sunday did make Rocco’s wish a reality on Monday, with an extra hole thrown in as well!

The final score on Sunday forced an 18-hole playoff between the two to be played the following day. A major golf site quickly predicted it would be an anti-climatic ‘fizzle’. Well, if you’d followed what happened during the 19 holes, you just might be out of a definition in that if you’d missed the unlikely and certainly memorable final putt by Tiger on the last hole on Sunday, you could witness a replay of the same magic again on the 18th. of the playoff! And, both were ‘life and death’ putts as far as the tournament was concerned for Woods. It only happens on golf instruction videos, did you say? Well, not for no reasons, Woods described it as the greatest victory he’d had so far.

But did they pit against each other during the playoff?

If you look back, Tiger was on his own to prove once again he was the ultimate magician of golf, and the result proved beyond doubt. Rocco was rather on a different plane of a battle ground. Likable as he was, he should have been himself – a professional golfer playing for winning the tournament. And for all his capabilities, he should have sealed it on the 17th. on Sunday on an easy putt that would have given him two clear of Tiger and Lee Westwood and not succumbed to the seduction of the crowd for the underdogs, albeit it would have been an anti-climax though for us all if that happened! If you recall, it happened to a few others in a similar situation as Rocco – suddenly finding himself in a psychological unpreparedness and under the spotlight playing with the favourite – and they all wilted. Responding to the roaring crowd by waving back and continuously having eye-to-eye contacts acknowledging cheers only split concentration. Heaven can wait, at least till after the last putt for the politeness, surely!

If you notice, when Tiger Woods plays, no one comes to watch, and there aren’t a single spectator in sight, no? Woods’ facial expression (or the total lack of it) tells it all!

Golf in the Philippines

An industry expert’s insight into the organizational aspect of the golf value chain in the ever evolving golf scene as managed in the country

January 2008 Manila: The analysis of the value chain can be split into 4 broad dimensions namely – P O T FIN. These are –Product, Organization, Technology and FINance.

This article tackles an instance of the ‘Organization’ dimension of the value chain and how it would lead to reduced costs hence greater profits, increased market share, better product development and how all these lead to better value for consumers. The story is weaved around a live example ofcoopetition (competition + cooperation) as an emerging new form of organizational structure in the golf industry in the Philippines.

As known, in a congested market place, a price war never creates economic value for the supply side, though we may say that it does in fair measures for the demand side. In the Philippines many golf directors and managers, who are the decision makers in a golf club, have opted to cooperate instead of undermining each other’s profits by a raging price war.

As a result of this, an industry structure was visualized, the history of which is beyond the scope of this article, as a result of increased influx of golf tourists, especially Koreans, to the Philippines. The structure is called GMAP (Golf Managers Association of the Philippines). To attract the incoming guests, the clubs, in a bid to attract the most number of people, were indulging in predatory pricing, at times bordering around break-even. As a result of this, the tourists were faced with two dilemmas: firstly, the feeling that they could have got a better deal; secondly the additional cost of dealing with multiple parties. As observed, no one gains and in a broader sense the perception of the country and the sport suffers along with the reduced foreign exchange being pumped into the economy.

The dynamics of this organization is such that when an offer from a contracting agent arrives, it is put on the table, in the open, for all the members to quote. This is sliced among all the members based on the requirements of the guests and the capabilities of the member courses. This is mutually agreed and the members then present this to their individual boards to take a decision. If a member prefers to opt out due to some constraints, the others are distributed the slice as per their capacity.

This has implications not only on the bottom lines of the participating clubs, but in a broader sense creates value not only for the visiting tourists but also for the image of the sport and the country in macro perspective. The tourists gain because they will be able to play in multiple golf courses without the hassle of dealing with multiple parties. They take back the pleasant perception of an organized and professionally run golf industry in the Philippines and thus recommend fellow countrymen. It’s no wonder that Koreans are thronging the archipelago in plane-fulls! The supply side i.e. the golf courses also gain because the damage to their bottom line has been saved and they are assured of a continuing patronage.

This mechanism also acts like a check on erring GMAP members by way of isolating them from further transactions till they agree to maintain the rules and the decorum of the forum. It also acts like a good feedback loop because the client complaints are taken seriously and the members each act like pseudo policemen for each other. Hence they compete with the intention of cooperation. It’s no wonder who will have the last laugh…the entire value chain!

About the Author:
Yash Makharia is writing his final thesis on the serious side of golf i.e. golf as an industry and the investment aspects of it, at the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines. The views as expressed in this article are entirely his. GOLFnTours.com is grateful to Yash for his kind contributions and sincerely hopes that his valuable insight into golf in the Philippines will greatly benefit not only golfers at large but those who may have an interest in golf as an investment.

Smile, and the Trophy will be Yours

A summary of the Volvo Masters of Asia 2007 and the muse over that perhaps the best kept secret of success of an eventual winner lies in the smile on the face.

December 2007 Chiangmai: It seems all you need to win a golf tournament is to keep smiling all the way to the last putt, and that includes smiling at times of adversities and high pressure. Tough things to do with a smile?

But that’s almost exactly what Juvic Pagunsan did during the entire Volvo Masters of Asia at the Thai Country Club, Bangkok this afternoon, 9 December, 2007.

Leading by 4 going into the final round and then more than losing it all in just the first nine would certainly not make a pleasurable Sunday golf for anyone, let alone one with a top price tag of $135,000! But if the secret weapon of this very skillful professional from the Philippines was the fast-becoming trademark smile he wears constantly on his face, it soon became clear after a couple of birdies from difficult positions finally found their way into his scorecard. Before mid-way on the home nine he had rollercoaster(ed) back on top of the leadership board. It was as if the constant smiling brought all the good things and overwhelmed all that’s bad. It’s as easy as that!

And, smile more he did as one after another contender, all but one just one shot behind succumbed to the pressure more severe than the afternoon heat of the Bangkok sun. Chris Rogers of England needed the last putt to keep afloat but missed the cup.

Simon Yates of Scotland could not believe he misjudged on the approach third of the penultimate Par-5 seeing the ball going into the water. Scott Hend of New Zealand and Mark Brown of Australia fell a bit on the wayside a little earlier and never recovered.

But Pagunsan did not win finally. When it mattered most Pagunsan had delivered before; but that was in the Asian Tour he last won in October in Indonesia beating top players like Lee Westwood and some of the best in Asia. He did just the opposite this time: he missed the cup from a similar distance that otherwise would have kept his hope alive by going into a play-off.

It took no less than a quiet but superbly-playing Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who trailed all day with the pack and was at some point a joint leader on the board but never did become a serious challenge on his own until the last hole where a precious birdie ensured a play-off at least. Like Pagunsan, Marksaeng enjoyed no less a harrowing rollercoaster ride on this sunny final day if only the ride was a little smoother. A bogey on the back nine appeared to have ticked him off the list of contenders and later an apparent do-or-die attempt for a 2-on on Par-5 Hole#17 found water. A superb pitch shot from the lakeside to the hill-top green saved the day and that perhaps spurred greater inspiration leading to the birdie on the final hole which proved a $135,000-worth when he eventually won the tournament.

That’s how the story ended. And if you haven’t guessed it, Prayad Marksaeng was just about the only other player in the field with a constant smile on his face, come what may, throughout the entire play!

Golf Par Excellence

A display of nerves of steel that most golfers do not even have to hold their breathe in front of the television for the final winning putt!

October 2007 Chiangmai: It’s been a long time since I last followed play of weekend PGA tournaments anywhere, on course or live on television. I just did, and on two tournaments being played almost simultaneously. And, what a finish! If you missed it, I would like to share it with you.

Alternating between two different channels on television, it was hard trying not to miss some riveting putts here and an eagle there for the tournament.

First, it was Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines who came quietly from down the board on the final day of the Asian Tours’ Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational being played at the Damai Indah Golf Club’s BSD Course in Jakarta. With the young and up-and-coming Gaganjheet Bhullar of India at top of the leadership board, having finished and waiting anxiously in the club house, the diminutive Pagunsan, one stroke behind and the only man left with a chance to catch up, coolly…if you need the definition of ‘all eyes are on you’…sank the eagle putt on the last and thus winning the tournament by one…

And within less than an hour or so, Suzanne Pettersen of Norway, having played superbly for the first three days going into the final of the Honda LPGA Thailand being played at the Old Course of the Siam Country Club in Pattaya with a 6-stroke lead, suddenly found herself struggling to maintain par. It took no less than the massive experience and the driving power of Laura Davies to put pressure on the young Norwegian all the way to the very last hole (deja vu?), where a slightly miss judged right on the decisive second shot of the par 5 last took it’s toll on the English woman. Where Davies’ 20-foot putt from the lip and over a ridge just missed the cup for an eagle to ensure a play-off at least if not winning it outright, Pettersen’s 10-footer duly dropped into the hole triggering a sudden burst of cheers from the crowd and a double upper-cut punches from the latter celebrating in triumph!
Well, talking about nerves of steel, not since Phil Mickelson sank the last x0-foot putt to win his first major were there such exciting and nerve-wrecking finishes. With Tiger around, there’s always good golf; but there are plenty of good golf too without him.

San Fernando: A Clipse of Golf History in the Philippines

How President Marcos, Christina Kim, Lee Kuan Yew, Dr. Christian Bernard and a colourful resident pro got together

Poro Point June 2007: You may be an avid golfer who has travelled around in Southeast Asia and played in most of the known courses on the golf map. However, the chances are you would not have discovered this little course nestled on the coast facing the Luzon Sea, just about an hour or so drive west of Baguio City. To call it a non-descript would unfairly douse the enthusiasm of the many mostly local golfers who gather every late afternoon for the game; nonetheless it could have been passed off as just one of the many courses in the Philippines, built during the time of the American administration and now awaiting either an upgrade, if fortune has it, or a slow death from neglect and then become completely overwhelmed when a new and modern course gets built in the vicinity, except that Wallace Golf Club, the only club in the city of San Fernando, Province of La Union, is unique!

Hole#9 of the humble lighthouse course of Wallace Golf Course, San Fernando, La Union, PhilippineBuilt in 1975 primarily for the US Airborne Division stationed here, it is the only course with sand-green in the entire Philippines! Not to raise undue expectations, the Wallace course is actually a simple Par 36 2,600-yard course with Hole#1 starting from the thatched-roof club house some 300 yards away from the sea and curving along the coast before turning at the lighthouse back towards the club house. The Signature Hole – one takes the liberty to call it that – is Hole#4 Par 4 307-yard dog-leg right with a 265-yard straight hair-clipped by tall trees at the turn before the straight again to landing. Not exactly a piece of genius in the course design but even if you have the driving prowess you might still be well tested to make the green in two. Period.

Sipping cool lemon tea on a lazy sunny afternoon and looking over the driving range and the tee-off for Hole#1, it is hard to imagine anyone who could be excited over these course technicalities. You either play here or you don’t. There are no other courses in the vicinity. But not so for Sixto Domenden, the 65 year-old grandpa resident pro, one of the two main architects involved in the building of Wallace. The other architect was his American Air Force colonel for whom, he recalled fondly, he often covered during the latter’s secret rendezvous with his girl-friend.

Way back in Baguio City Sixto began his career in the golf course as a caddy. But he was no ordinary one unless you consider caddying for the infamously great President Marcos as an ordinary job on the course. When they first met, Marcos was only a Congressman. By the time he became President of the Philippines, Sixto was already firmly his personal caddy. As he noted, Marcos did not change a bit after becoming the President and that impressed him a lot. It was the great President who made sure that his golden words of ‘always look back to where you came from before embarking further in your life’ were firmly imprinted in the mind of the then young Sixto. For that Sixto remained grateful. Perhaps the saga of the Marcos’ legacy could have become a little clearer and more easily resolved if everyone trusted the integrity of the great President as much as Sixto did: Marcos was a regular mean handicap 8, but his good card scores were never taken seriously by the media.

When the golden moment for the personal caddy to the President finally arrived, perhaps as a sign of him taking the President’s words of wisdom in earnest, he chose to remain in golf instead of accepting a possibly more lucrative job of position or working abroad. Thus he became the Assistant Director of the Wallace Golf Club project with his American colonel as the chief.

Apart from the President, he also caddied for dignitaries. Among them was Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who, as he vividly recalled, would always characteristically look up at the sun, open-mouthed, as if to draw inspiration from it before proceeding to set-up for the shot

When asked for the reason, the Prime Minister apparently told him that he drew energy from the act. One day according to Sixto, President Marcos confided to him that the Prime Minister was his mentor. However it wasn’t exactly clear that whether such a ritual of Mr. Lee had in any way decidedly influenced the President to regard the latter his mentor, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Lee is now, perhaps coincidentally or as the result of a strange sequence of events or for the diplomatic golfer in the Prime Minister or the other way round, a Minister Mentor in the cabinet of the Singapore Government!

Mr. Sixto Domenden, Resident Pro of Wallace Golf Club, San FernandoSixto (pic) also caddied for the late Dr. Christian Bernard, the renowned surgeon who performed the first heart implant operation in 1967. He remembered Dr. Bernard as, understandably, being more concerned with his delicate fingers for surgery than for a more robust grip of fellow countryman Ernie Els’. But, if there’s a feather in the cap that old Sixto would gladly anecdote, it would be that he clinic-coached Christina Kim for two months at the Mimosa Club in Clark Field. Then, young Kim was preparing to qualify for the LPGA card. Before going back to South Korea to do her regional qualifying, she gave Sixto his first ever cell phone for them to stay in touch. As it turned out according to Sixto, on at least two occasions, young Kim called him during play to ask for advice. The rest, as they say, is history. Ms Christina Kim duly qualified and is now a big name in LPGA. For Sixto, the same cell phone remains in his possession despite failing batteries and a long expired shelf-life of the phone itself. For him, it just might ring again and when it does, it can only be for the big time!

Meanwhile, the Junior Golfers’ Programme started by Sixto to produce new young talents continues in this most unassuming course of Wallace Golf Club, although as he has often wondered, for how much longer? In retro, it is not as if he hasn’t done enough for golf in the Philippines by first becoming a caddy, then winning the National Caddies’ Tournament of the Philippines and then representing the nation in the Putra Cup (a regional Southeast Asia Inter-national Team Tournament) which his team won with no small contribution of his top 10 finish in the individuals. The pinnacle of his career was being the personal caddy to the great President following which was his illustrious involvement in the building of Wallace. Sixto has in fact come full circle and should be able now to look back with pride and satisfaction at Wallace today.

But, nearby, where the Casino is, the landscape has lately been irreversibly unearthed. In about six months’ time, a modern 18-hole course will be ready to complement the Casino with mod-cons that Wallace can only dream of. What of Wallace after that? The committee has, albeit reluctantly, decided that progress shall be the way to go and the sand-green shall be turfed, just like everywhere else! Deep down, in the fading light of the evening sun there’s sadness evident through the smudged metal-rimmed glasses on the well-weathered face of the creator of the Wallace Golf Club. Looking over the sand-green of the last hole in the direction of the lighthouse, there is no doubt in his mind, when the virgin turf finally surfaces in six months’ time, a piece of the colourful history of golf in the Philippines will not only be silently but surely concealed and lost forever! Will Sixto remain? Why not, even if it is only for the reason that putting will now become less strenuous! There’s so much that he can now look back on and be proud of, and not least to pass on the story of the origin of golf in San Fernando lest it be so easily forgotten beneath the skin-deep turf of the new green. Yes, I shall remain, just like Christina Kim, watch your telly, never fails to aim her putt a little beyond the hole, he assured me!

Post script note:
GOLFnTours.com chanced upon Mr. Sixto Domenden (pic) at Wallace Golf Club while net-working in the Philippines. If you find the article interesting you might like to find out more about golf tours there. GOLFnTours.com would be happy to tailor a package for you in the Philippines or any other hot golf destinations in Southeast Asia.