Jolo Magcalayo
Joey Mendoza
Pinoy top amateur focuses on major events
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The sky’s the limit for Jolo Magcalayo, the highest-ranked Filipino in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), and the 17-year-old De La Salle Zobel Grade 11 student plans to focus on major events, including at least two American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments and two United States Golf Association (USGA) qualifiers, in trying to crack the top 200 this year.

Magcalayo’s best ranking was No. 449 but in the latest honor roll, he dropped to No. 709. The second highest-ranked Filipino in the WAGR is Aldric Chan at No. 968. Chan, No. 1700 Luis Castro and No. 2048 Sean Ramos made up the Philippine men’s team that took the bronze medal at the recent Southeast Asian Games.

“I missed qualifying for the first three spots (on the national team) as I left early for the US to play last summer,” said Magcalayo. “It was a gamble on my part. I was hoping that if I did well enough, I would have a chance for the captain’s pick. I won a couple of AJGA events, placed second in the North and South juniors, broke records at the Jr. PGA Championships and became the first Filipino to qualify for two successive US Jr. Amateur Championships. All I can do is to practice harder, do better and just pray that I make the team the next time.”

Magcalayo said his most memorable moment in golf was representing the country in the 2017 SEA Games. “I was only 14 and the youngest on the team,” he said. “That was the last time I was with the national team. I also played the Nomura and Putra Cups. I hope to play in the SEA Games again. I think I have two to three more chances before I turn pro. My other goal is to play in the Asian Games in 2022. Carrying your national flag in competition is every athlete’s dream. I was lucky to do it early in my career. There are no words to describe the pride an athlete feels wearing the national colors. I want to win for my country and for my countrymen to be proud of me. I wish that I can be given the chance again.”

As for his biggest golf achievement, Magcalayo said it’s becoming the highest-ranked Filipino in the WAGR. “I started 2019 at 5,000+ because I wasn’t playing any top-ranking tournaments as I wasn’t a member of any national team since 2017 and decided to focus on playing events in the US,” he said.  “By the start of summer, I was within 2,000 and by the end of summer, I broke 1,000 and was the highest-ranked Filipino. My goal is to break the top 200 before I go to college.”

Magcalayo is set to graduate from Zobel in March 2021 then it’s off to a US school on a golf scholarship. So far, he has received inquiries from over 30 US schools, including Florida State, UNLV, UCLA, Ohio State, Northwestern, Kent State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, Duke, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Texas State, Toledo, Colorado State and Arizona. “I want to leverage my golf to get an education,” said Magcalayo, the youngest of three children. “Maybe, play for a top program that will use me from Day One. I want to major in business or something related to business. This year, I hope to at least replicate what I did in 2019 in the US. I hope to qualify for the 120th US Amateurs. I missed qualifying last year as I lost in the extra holes playoff. I need to get stronger and bigger. I need distance off the tees. I need to mature as a player. I really need to practice harder and do better. I have to dedicate my life to be the best player possible, leaving no stone unturned.”

Magcalayo said he hopes to win a major amateur event in the US before leaving the junior ranks. “I want to get into a top US college program, play well and become a multiple All-American selection,” he said. “I want to be a part of the team that can go to the US NCAA Championships, contend and hopefully, win. After college, I want to turn pro and play in the PGA in the US. I want to have a long career and establish myself as one of the best to have come from the Philippines.”

Playing smart is something that Magcalayo said he always keeps in mind. “I try to be intelligent when I play but I’m not afraid to gamble and take big shots if there’s an opportunity,” he said. “My strength is in my irons. I’m an accurate driver but I’m not that long yet. My short game is steady but my putting sometimes abandons me. My coach (Joel Altea) says it’s because I don’t play in a lot of good courses with nice greens and I develop bad habits that I carry to big events. I’m being left 20-30 yards in the US by my competitors. Sometimes, even more. If I can add 20 yards off the tee, I’ll have a chance to excel in college and maybe, even in the pros.”

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