Commentary: TCC – The Beauty and her beast
Lito A. Tacujan (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A short dirt road leads to The Country Club. Why its patron and benefactor – one of the richest in Asia – never bothered to pave that eyesore of a “drive-thru” nobody knows.

But it’s there, a bone-jarring brief ride you brave to get to the par-72 course, hoping to have some dose of good golf in the day and be accorded the affluence and lure of the TCC.

Perhaps they kept the dirt road in its state of utter disrepair to serve as a warning that within its confines there lies the TCC, a beauty of a course that could metamorphose into a monstrous beast with a simple whiff of summer winds.

In fact, this piece of property that was once a thriving sugarlandia has in its bosom virtual tales of heartbreaks and defeats inflicted on those who tried to defile its sacred ground.

Now it’s hosting the 100th year of the fabled Philippine Open and organizers see it fit to stage it here anew and bring back slew of memories that produced clutches of woes and traumas that best defined the past Opens.

And for this centennial edition, it’s only fair that the TCC should provide some true test that may lead to heart-warming as well as sad stories that hopefully would add to its lore and last the next 100 years.

“Punishing” was how a media man with a decent game described TCC the day it opened its doors to a pack of sports scribes to sample the condition of the course.

They were tested in reverse, striking deep into the core of their being that some cursed under their breath and vowed never to return.

It was a “torture chamber” they found to their chagrin.

One wondered whether Tom Weiskoph, the PGA legend who designed the course, had played a matchplay with the devil and having lost, was spared the fires of hell but consigned to the task of doing the devil’s work like TCC. An evil design, so apt a term.

And it’s everywhere, in every nook and cranny, man-made lakes, meandering creeks, glass-top putting surface, full-grown trees and swirls and swells of the winds.

There are hints that the winds would not be as menacing in the week and it is expected that some swashbuckling rounds would be churned out in the Open.

“The TCC has a lot to offer with its length and set-up all the way to the greens. But the wind will not whip up this week, based on the wind website, so we can expect good scoring,” said TCC general manager Colo Ventosa.

Still the demanding course would remain a puzzle and a mystery even without the winds for its sheer length and hazard-laden fairways that could be stretched to a maximum of 8,000 in total yardage.

It was originally playing at 7,237 yards from the pro tees but has been transformed over the past two years to a world-class championship course with a total yardage of 7,844 yards.

But it remains a tough course that would leave one emotionally and mentally drained for there seems to be no relief through a round of 18 holes that incessantly vary in character for all the terrors lurking on the roughs, bunkers, and most on the contours of its greens.

There is this par-3, the 276-yard 11th that forever plays facing the winds, forcing the pros to pull out their titanium drivers and barely hit the green during last year’s TCC Invitational.

The winds were a malevolent presence when Englishman Steve Lewton won the 2017 Phl Open with a one-under par card while Miguel Tabuena triumphed in last year’s TCC Invitational with an eye-popping card of 13-over par.

Although 21-year-old Korean-American Micah Shin outduelled Tabuena in the recent TCC Invitational with a winning score of five-under, it would count to  a one-under card per round to underscore the degree of difficulty that awaits the Open cast.

Three holes could serve as turning points in the Open – the fifth hole, a challenging 465-yard par-4 that requires a lot of skill and heart to match par and the last two serving as treacherous finishing holes.

The 17th that now plays like an island green with bunkers built at the side and back and water guarding its front apron, and the 18th, a dog-leg par-4 where a huge lake and the winds always come into play, a daunting make-or-break test indeed.

Such is the appeal of TCC. It is so designed to make those who discovered this ancient game confront their mortality or relish the rare experience of surviving four days of physical, emotional and rigorous outing.

And there’s no better venue to hold this 100 years of the Open than at TCC for all the myriads of dramas, escapes and exhilarating finishes one would expect over this exacting theater of golf.

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