Wack Wack and The Philippine Open

SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico -

For four glorious days from Feb. 9 (Thursday) to Feb. 12 (Sunday), the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club (WWGCC) and the Philippines were the center of international golf attention when the 96th International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Philippine Open 2012 was held at the WWGCC’s East course before a live television audience in about 600,000,000 homes in 200 countries. The live coverage, produced by the Asian Tour and which totaled 16 hours, not only showed the golf competitions on television, but also featured the Philippines as a tourist and golf destination.

The four-day show highlighted the fact that WWGCC was born out of and anchored on a great sense of social responsibility of American engineer Bill Shaw (who donated 25 hectares of land that eventually became WWGCC’s West course) and his advocacy of racial tolerance.

Shaw had led a group of businessmen, among them Miguel Cuaderno, who would someday become the governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, in setting up the WWGCC in 1930 after the brown-skinned Filipinos were discriminated upon in Manila’s top and snobbish golf course by Shaw’s own conquering Caucasians from the West and Europe.

It would only be but proper for WWGCC out of a sense of social responsibility to be inspired by its founder. It thus opened its doors to others regardless of race, color, gender, talent and creed, a commitment found in the plaques (found in key areas in the club) on which WWGCC’s Vision-Mission is engraved.

Because of its intense desire to help golf and to contribute its share in promoting the Philippines that the WWGCC hosted the ICTSI Philippine Open for the second straight year, since 2008, and for the 50th time since 1935. The live coverage did precisely showcase the country as a fun place for golf and WWGCC as a truly world-class venue right in the middle of the metropolis. Everyone marveled at both how the Open was organized by the Asian Tour, the National Golf Association of the Philippines and WWGCC and by the professional quality and depth of the television coverage. The coverage further magnified the beauty of the refurbished East course.

The Asian Tour brought in a personnel complement of 75 just for the television component while close to 40 Asian Tour staff were involved in the actual running of the Open. The entire WWGCC organization of about 80 regular employees and hundreds of contractual personnel and caddies contributed to the Open’s success. 

If there was anything that could have further boosted the Philippines’ morale, it would have been a victory in WWGCC by a Filipino. The last time a Filipino won a Philippine Open was in 2008 when Angelo Que, then 29 years old, did the trick. But alas, it was not to happen.

After compiling an aggregate score of six under par by the third day, 17-year old Miguel Tabuena, found himself just a stroke shy off Singapore’s Mardan Mamat who had an outstanding seven under par tally after the penultimate day of the four-day Philippine Open, the oldest professional golf tournament in Asia.

Going into the fourth day therefore, the local crowd was excited about the prospects of the youngest ever professional golfer to win the Open which was being held for the 96th time since 1913. Tabuena’s victory could be the booster that the sport needed in the same way that Manny Pacquiao injected life into Philippine boxing and a host of heroes were drivers for their sport: Eugene Torre – chess; Paeng Nepomuceno–bowling; Efren (Bata) Reyes – billiards and, years earlier, Frankie Miñoza for golf. But it was not to be, at least not yet: Tabuena wound up tied with five others at 11th place with a nine over 81 in the last day. He had dropped out of contention with a triple bogey seven on the 10th hole.

In what was regarded as a coup of sorts, Pacquiao played in the pro-am on Wednesday to help raise funds for the thousands of victims of Typhoon Sendong by autographing about a 100 boxing gloves. The eight-division world champ graciously accepted our personal invitation which was issued at the suggestion of the Asian Tour to give more push to the Open. And Pacquiao’s appearance did hit the front pages, television screens and social media all over the world.

It was another victory for the Philippines, golf and WWGCC: the media values have yet to be computed but they are expected to run in the millions of pesos. The publicity for both WWGCC and the Philippines was therefore worth the sacrifice made by the WWGCC members who could not play in the East course for several days. That is what social responsibility is all about: a voluntary sacrifice for the wider community.

 Truly, golf is more fun in the Philippines!

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