(First row, from front) Kenneth Hing, Mark Anthony and Davelyn Dy, Myra Caparros, Marie Claire Ong and Dr. Benedicto Oreta; (second row, from front) Auto Nation Group’s Fatima Cullado, the author, Javi Toledo, Alfonso Olondriz, Gregorio Vergara and Marvin Caparros.
The Mercedes Trophy
MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2018 - 12:00am

The global automotive marque from Stuttgart, Germany has its roots in Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft’s 1901 Mercedes and Karl Benz’s 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the latter widely regarded as the first gasoline-powered automobile.

It was only in 1926 that the brand Mercedes-Benz for the automobile came about, with the merger of the companies of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler.

Since then, Mercedes-Benz has always been known as a standard of German engineering, luxury, quality and, of course, fine taste.

Owning a Mercedes-Benz has always been a status symbol  of having “made it” in the world.

Small wonder then that the brand slogan is “the best or nothing.”

(From left) Marvin Caparros, Alfonso Olondriz, Kenneth Hing, the author, Dr. Benedicto Oreta and Gregorio Vergara.

Yes, much is known about Mercedes-Benz throughout history, but perhaps not much may be known about the Mercedes Trophy.

The Mercedes Trophy is an exclusive, by-invitation-only  international golf tournament series for Mercedes-Benz customers and potential customers who are golf enthusiasts. It started in 1989 as a tournament series for amateurs, but in 1991, the first Mercedes Trophy for customers and potential customers took place.

Now on its 29th year, the tournament series has established itself in every continent. More than 57,000 golfers from over 50 countries take part in this yearly tournament.

Golf has always been an integral part of Mercedes-Benz’s involvement in sports. Aside from the Mercedes Trophy, the brand also sponsors and supports the likes of The Masters, the PGA Championship, the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup, just to name a few.

(From left) Tournament director Marvin Caparros, Auto Nation Group Inc. chairman Gregorio Yu and president Felix Ang, Ladies champion Marie Claire Ong, Class A champion Alfonso Olondriz, Class B champion Kenneth Hing, the author (Class B first runner-up), Class A first runner-up Mark Anthony Dy, Class C first runner-up Gregorio Vergara and Class C champion Dr. Benedicto Oreta.

The golf tournament consists of three levels. First is the invitational tournaments at the local level in some countries where players can then qualify for national finals then regional finals. The Trophy highlight is the world final that is always held in Stuttgart. Those who qualify for the global finals will be the players who have won the national or regional finals in their countries/regions.

This year, as is the case of the year before, the Auto Nation Group of Felix Ang and Gregorio Yu invited me to play in the Mercedes Trophy national finals.

The Trophy was celebrating its 13th year in the Philippines. The Philippine leg winners would get the chance to play in the regional finals in Australia (on its 28th year) and, if triumphant, move on to the world finals traditionally held at the “home” of the automobile in Stuttgart, Germany.

I’m pleased to say that I was fortunate to make it this time, after several attempts, to the Asian finals in Brisbane, Australia as part of Team Philippines.

Daimler South East Asia Pte. Ltd. president and CEO Wolfgang Huppenbauer with Dr. Benedicto Oreta.

To be sure, it wasn’t just luck, but sheer, serious preparation. After my last failed attempt, I vowed that I will prepare myself both physically and mentally. Indeed, you do reap what you sow.

I made it to the distinguished list of businessmen-golfers who prevailed in the national finals held at the Sta. Elena Golf and Country Club, arguably one of the best courses not only in the Philippines but also in Asia.

The winners in the national finals were Alfonso Olondriz (Class A champion), Mark Anthony Dy (Class A first runner-up), Kenneth Hing (Class B champion), Mike Toledo (Class B first runner-up), Benedicto Oreta (Class C champion), Gregorio Vergara (Class C first runner-up) and Marie Claire Ong (Ladies champion).

I heard so many stories from previous winners about the über VIP treatment the Mercedes-Benz organization will shower you with, but that didn’t prepare me for what I would dub as “the experience of a lifetime.”

With son Javi Toledo.

We flew Business Class on Philippine Airlines’ new Airbus Neo jets directly to Brisbane. Our nod of thanks to top golfer and tireless PAL president Jimmy Bautista, who, by the way, made a “hole in one” during the tournament. For this feat, he brought home a brand-new Harley-Davidson.

Upon arrival in Brisbane, we were met by Mercedes-Benz’s competent and courteous staff and were whisked away by a luxurious tourist bus (Mercedes-Benz, of course) to the picturesque Intercon Sanctuary Cove Resort where spacious and well-appointed rooms with a fantastic view of the gardens and the water awaited us.

Aside from the two-day tournament — plus one practice round at the world-renowned The Pines and The Palms courses in Sanctuary Cove (golf nirvana!) — participants were feted every day with a cornucopia of activities ranging from sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners to exquisite cocktail parties with live entertainment, no less.

One of the highlights was the Mercedes-Benz driving experience at the Mt. Cotton training facility where professional drivers-instructors taught us how to drive on adverse road conditions and, at the same time, showcase the engineering and technological marvel of its cars.

An adrenaline-charged and power-packed Mercedes-Benz experience, believe me.

The author at the Mercedes Trophy Asian finals in Brisbane, Australia.

And to those who ask how I fared, the first round of play was worth remembering, but I buckled under in the second round. It must have been exhaustion as I’ve never played three successive rounds of competition golf before, not to mention having to be up for the tournament at five o’clock in the morning Brisbane time, which is an ungodly three o’clock in the morning Philippine time.

Ahh, but not Dr. Dict Oreta, the Class C champion of the Philippine leg. The cool doctor was steadfast and consistent in his shots. Oblivious of the time difference and back-breaking schedule, he emerged as one of the Asian Finals winners and was qualified to compete in the World Finals in Germany. Well done, Doc!

My congratulations to the Mercedes-Benz organizing committee and to Daimler South East Asia president and CEO Wolfgang Huppenbauer.

Here in the Philippines, take a bow, the inimitable “Mr. Mercedes-Benz” Felix Ang and Greg Yu, our able captain Marvin Caparros, and the omnipresent marketing lady Fatima Cullado, who, with captain Marvin, made sure we all had a great time.

To my talented teammates, it was a pleasure indeed to have played and broken bread with all of you.

Our time in Brisbane is seared in my memory forever.

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