The hole-in-one prize

Before I dive into the main topic of today, I will have to begin with a long intro using the game of golf as an example. I have never played a game of golf in my entire life so I do not belong to the “Hampas Lupa Brigade.” I have, however, tagged along at least once and I have also painfully endured lunch with grown men chasing after a small ball that they try to hit as far as possible every time they reach it. All those times were not a waste, as I learned the culture of golf players, the level of gambling or friendly bets that goes into making the rounds more challenging, as well as some interesting aspects of the game.

I also learned how some organizers invite major car distributors to offer a brand new car as the “hole-in-one prize.” Generally the organizers ask the car distributor or dealer to display their car for publicity and promotions value, send a team of lovely ladies to distribute brochures or harvest contact details from potential buyers and pray to high heavens that no one hits a hole in one.

According to Google, the chances of sinking a hole in one for an amateur golf player is 12,500-to-1, while an average low handicapper has a 5,000-to-1 chance. I don’t know if the auto industry keeps statistics but my wild guess is that at least five luxury cars were “sunk” in 20 years. The only consolation to the dealer is if they were smart enough to get an insurance policy to cover the cost of the vehicle. If nobody hits a hole in one, the dealer or distributor would only be out by about 20- to 30-grand I think, but don’t bet on that figure because I only overheard it. So after this very long set up or approach, what is our serious topic for the day?

I along with 110 million Filipinos hysterically rejoice with Hidilyn Diaz for winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal!!! Judging from the unsolicited announcements of donors, sponsors and PR freeloaders, Ms. Diaz will be richer by P30 million to P50 million plus. Wow, young lady, you deserve it!

On the other hand, now is also as good a time as any to raise the question, why only now? This issue has been raised many times but given the millions upon millions of pesos being offered up as prize money or reward, I can’t help but compare the offerings as something similar to the hole-in-one prize generally intended to attract interest and for PR’s sake and you literally have to beat the odds, sink it to win it!

Please don’t get me wrong, the offers are much appreciated, so much so that I originally meant to title the column “Better Late Than Never.” But how is being late better?

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Some might think that I am putting rich donors and sponsors on a guilt trip; I’m not. What I’m trying to do is make all of us realize that Hidilyn Diaz might have or could have won the gold in 2016 in Rio. We lost Wesley So to the US, we have had countless athletes go down the path of failure, not for lack of talent or effort but lack of support. Politicians will brag about legislations that recognize and reward champions and medalists, but for every medalist who won a silver or bronze, how many dozens or hundreds of young athletes have we lost because corporations, businessmen, government and media have not learned that in order to bring home more gold medals and raise up more medalists we need to invest our time, money and effort on “Little Leagues” – grassroots clinics – inter-barangay sports tournaments, school intramurals, village summer sports tournaments and many more regional competitions. We are an archipelago with thousands of kilometers of shoreline, but thousands of Filipinos don’t know how to swim or ride a bicycle.

Government officials, local politicians and educators treat the matter as an unnecessary expense, but anyone who is not too lazy and would bother to study countries that are athletically competitive will discover that instead of an expense, the grassroots and junior leagues are economic drivers for thousands of small businesses employing mentors, managers, coaches and facility workers. These developmental sports programs create businesses providing uniforms, shoes, food, facilities, transport, security, etc.

In terms of psycho-social development, well-organized sports development programs provide great training ground for discipline, cooperation, respect on and off the court. It is high time for leaders in government and business to recognize the need and massive commercial and human benefits in investing in grassroots sports development instead of offering prizes with conditionality or strings attached. If you want holes in one, you are better off spending the bounty money or belated pot on setting up proper schools and programs with the purest of intention and not corporate or personal glory. If we are to win as one with champions like Hidilyn, we must be there for them.

According to what has been reported in the news, Hidilyn Diaz bought land and put up a weightlifting training facility in her native Zamboanga where future weightlifters go. She did this even before she won the gold medal and before she got any of the multi-million prize money she has been offered. Hidilyn Diaz deserves to enjoy her just rewards and now let’s pass the prize money forward and downward. What we do for professional sports and corporate business, let us now do for grassroots sports.

In closing here’s what Hidilyn Diaz said: “Grabe si God, akala ko imposible, akala ko hindi kaya ng Pinoy pero ibinigay sa atin ni GOD.”

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