How do you look so calm in such a pressure-filled game? How do you manage to stay unaffected and appear so relaxed in the biggest tournament of the biggest golf club in Cebu?
I posed these questions last Saturday to one of the best—if not the best—golfer in Cebu today; to the player who was recently crowned as “Club Champion” (his second in three years) of the Cebu Country Club……. Chuckie Hong.
“My personality off the golf course is who I am on the golf course,” he said. “I’m the silent, serious type. And whenever a problem arises, for example, I’m never one to jump and be overly surprised. I’m not impulsive. I’m more of a thinker. And this carries on in the golf course. I’m relaxed. Patient. I guess you can also say that, as a player, kalma ang akong disposition.”
For someone so mature, Chuckie is only 19.
Holding the trophy, Chuckie poses with family and friends
Too bad I missed watching him win the club championships two weekends ago—last May 10—against four-time winner Eric Deen but, together with my tennis partner Macky Michael, I watched him last year and the year before. Any observations? Plenty.
First, Chuckie doesn’t know the meaning of the word “rattled.” Or the term “pressure.” Or the words “Oh no, I hit a lousy shot!” When he tees off and the ball goes haywire or his approach shot dives on the sand trap, he never shakes his head or slams a 3-iron to form a divot. He’s expressionless. Relaxed, focused. And, as always, his swing is fluid.
And this, in my mind’s eye, are the keys to unlocking the success of Chuckie as a two-time CCC champion and as the top collegiate player in Metro Manila (and, possibly, the whole nation). It’s that steely consistency, patience, confidence.
A fourth year college student at La Salle in Taft, Manila, I asked Chuckie, “What’s next for you? What’s your ambition? Dream?”
Within a nanosecond, he replied: “To turn pro!”
Perfect, I thought. And Chuckie’s got it all planned out: When he graduates next year, he’ll devote the next two to three years honing and fine-tuning his game. “I’m not good enough to become a pro. Not yet,” he admits. “And I’m thankful that my dad (George) is very supportive with my plans. My goal is, after college, to devote 100 percent to golf. To do it full-time.”
Chuckie’s mom Jojo and dad George
Today, Chuckie is a two-handicapper. This, despite not being able to play as often as he likes, owing his studies. “It was good that, for two weeks straight before the club championships, I was able to practice in Cebu everyday. Because in Manila, I only get to play once every two weeks. And about three times a week, I practice on the driving range.”
Imagine if Chuckie practiced six days a week? Four hours per 24 hours? If he didn’t have to think about books and buildings and bulldozers and his Civil Engineering course? If he devoted his full concentration to this game of Sergio Garcia?
“I want to give it a shot… this goal of turning pro. Anyway, I’m still young. When I’m 30 years old or something, there’ll be a lot of time to work, as in do real work, and go to the office. But for now, this opportunity exists. Plus, I don’t ever want to tell myself in the future, ‘Why didn’t you give it a shot?’”
An all-around athlete who also dabbles in table tennis and basketball (“Go, Lakers!,” he proclaimed), I asked Chuckie to give us, the ordinary, non-2-handicapper players, for advice.
“I think a common problem is that many want an instant fix. People want to be good right away. But golf takes time. One needs to spend time, a lot of time, hitting balls. We need to learn patience,” he said. “Also, it’s important to try and learn to have a good swing. My father always told me, ‘The guy with a good swing, in the law of averages and in the long run, will always come out first.’”
Possessing a picturesque-perfect swing coupled with endless patience, no wonder Chuckie is first.