Fascinating golf history

SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico -

Unknown to many, golf is probably one of the first non-martial art sports introduced into the Philippines. Golfing Philippines says that golf was introduced in Manila in 1886 by the Britons who were employed at the Manila Railway Corp. (predecessor of Meralco). These British built a three-hole golf course in paddy fields in Intramuros and by 1901 there was a nine-hole course in the area. Thus began the Manila Golf Club (MGC), which would later relocate to Caloocan.

Robin Moyer and Buddy Resurreccion, co-authors of Golfing Philippines, state that the Philippine Open was marked by racial discrimination. For many years, the MGC barred Filipinos from becoming members of the exclusive colonialists’ club.

The Philippine Open, the Philippine championship with foreign participation, was also off limits to natives from 1913 up to 1928. Locals however, got a big break in 1928 when a kind-hearted American elected to sponsor a young caddy by the name of Larry Montes. This kind-hearted American persuaded other MGC officials, including William (Bill) Shaw, to let Montes play in the Open.

Montes subsequently won the Open (the first of his unequalled record of 13 wins) to trigger events that would change the face of Philippine golf and make it more inclusive.

Montes’ victory put the organizers in a quandary: Montes deserved to sit at the presidential table during the awards dinner at the MGC, a club exclusively for foreigners. He was initially allowed to sit, as winner, at his place but was asked to leave because MGC rules prohibited caddies from entering the clubhouse.

An enraged Shaw protested against the brazen display of discrimination and formed another golf club, Wack Wack (taken from “Uwak”, local black birds that were found aplenty in Mandaluyong, where the club was established), that would be open to all races. 

The Philippine Open was moved in 1935 to Wack Wack, where it stayed until the late 1980’s. The Open and Wack Wack therefore became synonymous until the National Golf Association of the Philippines took over from Wack Wack committees and moved the Open to other courses in the country.

The golf sport is indeed thriving. In Metro Manila and Antipolo alone, there are at least 10 18-hole golf clubs with Wack Wack accounting for two world-class 18-hole courses. Tournaments are held almost everyday with fellowship clubs within golf clubs sprouting all over the place. These mini clubs are examples of community-based or grassroots sports (which is not necessarily limited, as most people think, to the barangays and participated in just by the impoverished) which form the base of competitive and elite sports.

Colleges and universities have formed teams to participate in highly popular tournaments like the Samsung Interscholastic Golf Championships.

De La Salle University (DLSU) and Ateneo are but two of the many schools which join inter-school tournaments. The arch-rivals in fact have been holding the La Salle-Ateneo Match Play yearly with DLSU winning for four consecutive years, the last one fashioned out by the Green Archers behind a 28-14 rout last weekend at Tagaytay Highlands.

One young golfer from DLSU who’s been successful in the Samsung Championships is 20-year old Christopher Mario Uriarte Capinianes. An Electronics and Communications Engineering student, Capinianes has captured several championships and runner up honors in major tournaments and he credits his parents with giving him full support.

Allan Matthew P. Guy is another Lasallian golfer who has been with the La Salle team since his freshman year at La Salle Green Hills high school. Now, a first year Marketing Management student, the 18-year-old Guy, says that what keeps him going is simply his love for the game and the fact that he’s part of the La Salle golf team.

Lasallian Justin Joaquin Limjap, 21, has been playing golf for 11 years. He was, among others, individual champion of the Samsung Interscholastic Golf Championships in 2006. Limjap, who was the 2008 team captain, also gives credit to his parents for their unqualified support.

Chuck Hong is a 20-year-old civil engineering senior at DLSU. Hong has been playing golf for 13 years and has a board handicap of one at the Cebu Country Club (CCC), where he was club champion in 2005 and ‘07. He was also collegiate player of the year in the 2007 Samsung interscholastic championships.

Jan Michael Yee or Miko, 19, is a scratch player (zero handicap). Yee has been playing for 10 years. Manila Southwoods is his home course. A sports management student at La Salle, Yee counts among his major achievements placing 12th over 200 players in the Callaway Junior World golf tournament and Riviera club champion in 2005.

Congratulations to Samsung for helping keep golf alive and kicking.

A Blessed Christmas to everyone!

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