Wack Wack's Bill Shaw and social responsibility

SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico () - September 22, 2010 - 12:00am

Two days ago, the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club (WWGCC) observed the 133rd birth anniversary of William “Bill” Shaw, one of the co-founders and original incorporators of WWGCC, a golf course borne out of distaste for racial discrimination.

Alfredo M. Velayo, president of the William J. Shaw Foundation and one of the founding partners of the internationally-renowned SGV (Sycip, Gorrres and Velayo), says in the Preface of the coffee table book, “The Life and Legacy of William J. Shaw (text by Jessica Zafra), Shaw “was not a man to trumpet his achievements... Thousands of people traverse Shaw Boulevard everyday and glance at this memorial at the entrance of Wack Wack in Mandaluyong without knowing who this great man was.”

Golf enthusiasts and serious sports historians, however, know that Shaw spearheaded the formation of WWGCC because of his disappointment with the racist remarks of foreign members of the Manila Golf Club (MGC), then located in Caloocan, and one of only two golf courses in Manila. The other was the Municipal Golf Links or “Muni” which used to be the moat in Intramuros or the Walled City. Intramuros was built by the Spaniards to repel foreign invaders and the “indios” who were on the verge of throwing out the Spaniards by the time the Americans came to wage war against Spain in the Philippines.

The membership of MGC was restricted to British, American and a few Japanese nationals. Filipinos played at Muni, a public course.

According to Zafra, so many came to play Muni that it became rather crowded, especially during weekends. Among the crowd were Miguel Cuaderno (who became Central Bank governor), Gil Fargas, Dr. Julio Luz and Francisco Matias, who was assistant to the Manager of the Manila Hotel.

During one game, the foursome had teed off at the last tee near Malecon Drive, close to the wall where Fort Santiago was located. Dr. Luz hooked his drive with a mid-iron to the tall bushes near the wall which made the crow (Uwak) scamper for safety.

Continuing his narration, Cuaderno says “driving another ball, the Doctor hooked again almost to the same spot where his first ball landed. Another crow shot up squawking as it must have been hit by the ball.”

From then on, “we used to holler wack wack whenever we wanted to get our opponents’ goat since it was agreed among us that goat-getting during the play was part of the fun we got out of it.”

It did not take long for the four and other like-minded souls to organize themselves into a club which they called Wack Wack Golf Club.

According to Zafra, the Wack Wack group got permission to restore an abandoned nine-hole course near the La Loma Cemetery in Caloocan. When the course had become playable, the group was allowed to use it without paying rent. Zafra says that the story of the construction of the WWGCC on its current site in Mandaluyong is a testament to Bill Shaw’s sense of fair play and belief in racial equality. A piece written by Cuaderno in 1962 narrates the background behind the construction of Wack Wack in Mandaluyong.

Cuaderno says that in 1928, Shaw and he were presidents of the MGC and WWGC, respectively. On Shaw’s invitation, about a dozen Wack Wack players went to the MGC for a match. After finishing the morning round and while he and 98-pound Dr. Joaquin Ladao were having a shower, Cuaderno and Ladao heard the remark of a Briton who apparently resented the Wack Wack group’s having been invited to play.

Shaw felt greatly embarrassed because he invited the group to play there and, besides, he (Shaw) was also a member of the WWGCC.

On the following day, Shaw invited Cuaderno to a luncheon at which Shaw suggested that Cuaderno organize a committee to look for a suitable piece of land which could be purchased and converted into a first class golf course. Cuaderno says he received two offers: one located near Polo, Bulacan and the other, the present site of WWGCC.

It is said that another incident that Shaw believed was unpardonable involved denying Filipino golf icon Larry Montes his rightful place, as winner of an MGC tournament, in the head table for the reason that Montes was a native and the table was packed with foreigners.

This blatant act of racial discrimination so enraged Shaw that he decided it was time to build a golf club for everyone, regardless of the color of one’s skin.

As I said in my speech after the mass and wreath laying in Shaw’s monument, “The man had a vision for the future of the Philippines.”

Next week, more on Shaw and the beginnings of Wack Wack.

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