Rick Gibson finds paradise

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2019 - 12:00am

Canadian golfer Rick Gibson wanted to come to the Philippines in 1985, but the Canadian government issued a warning to citizens visiting the country. He finally arrived in 1987 as one of the best players in Asia. At a tournament in Wack Wack, he met his wife, former actress Josephine Garcia. Three years later, they were married and soon had their first child. That life change prompted Gibson, Asian Tour champion, to put down roots in the Philippines.

“Crossing the international dateline ten to twelve times a year with my family in Canada did not make sense to me,” said Gibson, an Asian Tour winner who also scored a dramatic win in the 2014 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, his maiden European Seniors Tour victory.

When he first came to Dakak around that time three decades ago, it was a far cry from what it is now. Invited by the Jalosjos family, who were cousins of his wife, he found that the place evoked the same feelings he got from his idyllic home in Victoria in Canada. You came in by sea, as the roads were still rough. You alighted from a banca and walked over a ladder gang-plank style to get onto the beach. Suddenly, you’re in paradise.

“Back then, Romy (Jalosjos) was already telling us about his dream for the place,” Gibson recalls. “The property belonged to their family, and he had this vision for it, beyond just the resort.”

Today, Dakak has many amenities you can find only in the best resorts in the world. The new casitas have the latest technological features, and the breathtaking beaches are second to none. The restaurants feature Filipino, Chinese, Italian, Korean and Japanese cuisine, for starters. One of the newest features is the longest dual zipline in Asia. You’ll be hurtling through the air for a heart-pounding 45 seconds. 

“I’ve been in a helicopter outside Dipolog. There are a lot of roads being built; and that’s a long way from Davao,” Gibson says. “So it seems Duterte has brought attention to Mindanao, outside of what’s happening in Marawi.”

Aside from the one-of-a-kind golf course, Dakak Golf is also setting up a golf academy to build the future greats of the game. Using his experience as national coach, Gibson – as its president – is aiming to train a hardier next generation of par-busters. Having been to the last Asian Games and youth Olympic Games, he learned a lot about how the most successful athletes molded. He noticed that, unlike in other countries, local junior golfers are used to having caddies, whom they sometimes treat like glorified nannies. He feels that golf is a game that builds independence. You carry your own gear. You learn by making your own decisions. You get stronger making your own mistakes.

The golf course at Dakak has many unique attractions. First of all, seven of the first nine holes face the sea, something no other course in the world can boast of. Each hole has its own challenges. “Crocodile Point” narrows towards the green, with huge drops on either side. On another hole, you have to cross water to make par. And on the hole Gibson dubbed “The Chairman’s Revenge”, you get one shot to go over a waterfall, then take a drop at the top.

The planned casino, now under construction, will sit on a three-hectare island looking directly at the 18th tee. Cruise ships will dock nearby, and the airport will accommodate night flights.

In six months, the back nine will likewise be completed. The vision of former Rep. Romeo Jalosjos of a complete, unparalleled world-class golfing and entertainment destination is finally coming together. And Rick Gibson gets to live and work in paradise.

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