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Razon keeps Pinoy golf alive

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2021 - 12:00am

When the pandemic struck last year, Philippine sports took the blow on the chin. Events were suspended. Athletes were left to work out on their own. But GAB came to the rescue and got the pro side of things back on track. Golf was a beneficiary of the IATF’s approval to restart pro sports and before the year ended, two events were held under bubble conditions.

Both golf competitions were staged two weeks apart at the Riviera in Silang, Cavite with the Bayleaf Hotel as quarters for players. The Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) organizers studied the PBA bubble carefully and applied the appropriate protocols. Players were tested thrice and self-quarantined before entering the bubble. Once inside the bubble, nobody could leave. Anyone who chose to exit wasn’t allowed to reenter. The tournaments combined ladies and men but on separate flights and tee mounds. There was an interval of about 15 minutes between flights. Some 80 players participated in each competition. Once cleared to enter the bubble, the players were safe and sound as organizers reported no incidence of anyone showing symptoms of the virus. A whole wing of the Bayleaf Hotel was set aside for the participants and makeshift tents were put up outdoors to handle registration, coordination and administration. Food packs were distributed and deliveries were sanitized. Before opening the bubble, three or four players tested positive and were immediately isolated.

The first tournament was played on the Couples course last Nov. 17-20 and the second on the Langer course last Dec 8-11. Players returned home after the first competition and went through the same testing routine before reporting for the second. The tournaments went off without a hitch as Tony Lascuna won the men’s title and Princess Superal the women’s in the first while Ira Alido took the men’s and Pauline del Rosario the women’s in the second.

Without ICTSI chairman Ricky Razon’s support, golf wouldn’t have been kept alive during the pandemic. “We owe it to Mr. Razon for giving us a chance to continue playing,” said a golf pro. “It’s almost impossible for anyone to compete overseas except for Yuka Saso, who lives in Japan and Bianca Pagdanganan who’s on the LPGA tour. Thailand is open only to Thais, Japan to Japanese, Taiwan to Taiwanese and Korea to Koreans. It’s understandable why countries are protective of their borders. Pro golfers rely on Mr. Razon and ICTSI for our livelihood.”

Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. (PGTI) is the corporate entity that mounts the PGT for men, women and starting in 2017, PGT Asia “to provide a new, rewarding venue for foreign campaigners to compete in Asia.” Razon is PGTI’s chairman and president with Nana Soriano as executive director and Colo Ventosa as general manager of The Country Club in Sta. Rosa. In 2019, PGTI held 20 to 25 events. This year, the plan is to roll out 15. If the pandemic persists and vaccination isn’t widespread, it’s likely tournaments will continue to be played in a bubble. Since the bubble events were successful last year, a replication wouldn’t be difficult and pros are excited to get back into the swing of things on the greens. “Mr. Razon has been supporting golf for over 20 years, maybe even 30,” said a golf pro. “He’s an avid golfer and so was his father. It’s his love for the game that drives his passion. Philippine golf would be lost without him. He backs all levels of golf from the junior class to amateur to pros, he helps out individual golfers, he gives an opportunity for our golfers to excel on the global stage. It’s no wonder he was named Executive of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association in 2019 because in the 2018 Asian Games, golf produced two of the country’s four gold medals and it was the first time in 32 years that the Philippines won a gold in golf at the Asian Games. It’s our wish for the New Year that Mr. Razon continues his support for the game we love. In the coming Olympics, we hope to qualify in golf and repay him for his faith, trust and confidence. Who knows? We could make history in Tokyo.”

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