Monthly Archives: September 2011

Golf and LJ Go

Golf is difficult. Look at Tiger Woods. His knee is damaged, he’s world-ranked a lowly 49, his last title was 22 months ago and, at last month’s PGA Championships, he shot a 7-over 77. TW missed the cut.

LJ Go? He’s a cut above the rest. Spelled in full, his name is Lloyd Jefferson Go. You’d know he excels in one sport just by studying the initials of his name:

GO, LJ. G-O L-F. The two are nearly identical. It’s no coincidence that this 16-year-old Cebu Country Club (CCC) resident is one of the country’s most promising golfers.

Last Thursday, Atty. Jovi Neri chronicled LJ’s spectacular 2011 season. Many experts, including Jovi, the head of the CCC Jungolf Program and a former CCC champion, consider LJ “as the most talented junior to emerge from Cebu Country Club.” Possibly, ever. Among LJ’s records: two junior championships, twice shooting the junior competitive course record of 69, a men’s club championship top seeding, and twice top-scoring for the men’s PAL team.

Here’s more… Last summer, after a string of successful tournaments in the U.S., LJ returned to Cebu all-confident. In Club Filipino’s President’s Cup, he shot a 68 and went home to his parents, Charlie and Lily, carrying the trophy. Next, he led his team to the overall crown of the Cheling Garcia Memorial.

“LJ’s impressive performance in America earned him the attention of NGAP (National Golf Association of the Phils.) director Tommy Manotoc, a legendary sportsman in his own right,” said Jovi Neri. “Manotoc personally selected LJ to play for the Philippine Men’s Team in the Putra Cup when Marcel Puyat had to beg off as he was entering Stanford under a scholarship.”

The 51-year-old Putra Cup is the Southeast Asia Amateur Golf Team Championship. “LJ was a 16-year-old junior playing for the Men’s Team in an international team event,” said Jovi. “No one can remember the last time a Cebuano was in the men’s team, definitely not in the last two decades and not as young as him.”

LJ also joined the Taiwan Men’s Amateur and came within a stroke of being the best Filipino campaigner. The Putra Cup, which finished weeks ago in Hong Kong? “His third round 70 was the best by any Filipino and his total was 2nd best among eight Filipinos – men’s and juniors – who played the course from the same tees,” said Atty. Neri.

What’s amazing is this: He is a national-caliber virtuoso who has chosen to stay sa probinsya. “LJ’s teammates in the men’s team have all come from national training programs funded by ICTSI,” said Neri. “LJ has never moved to Manila. He trains on his own in Cebu. His enjoyment of his student life in Cebu is the reason why he never traded it for home-schooling or transferring to Manila for training. He is an inspiration to young provincial kids who want to excel without leaving home.”

LJ first swung a 7-iron at the age of 7. He started under the tutelage of Raul Sorino, one of the instructors of the CCC Jungolf Program, then moved to his longest-serving mentor, Victor Macutay. Today, his coach is Andrew Ong.

A high school senior in Centre for International Education (CIE), LJ aspires to be a U.S. collegiate scholar. Adds Jovi: “Outside of the golf course, he lives an ordinary student life. But in the course, he is anything but ordinary. His exponential rise over the past few months—from a talented club junior golfer to a men’s national team top scorer—is nothing short of remarkable.”

How remarkable? Here’s a story supplied by Jovi Neri: “Last Sunday, I joined LJ’s flight with Gen Nagai, Gio Gandionco and Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco. In the front nine, he was out of his element hitting tops and shanks to find water on three straight holes. He even had a four-putt green and shot an ugly 8-over par 44.

“LJ picked it up in the back nine with five birdies and one eagle. He finished eagle-birdie-birdie, and won the September Junior Monthly Medal by count back (tie-break). His score (6-under par 30) is the lowest in nine holes I have ever witnessed in my 20 years of playing CCC.”

LJ Go’s breakout year, by Jovi Neri

“Many have said that Lloyd Jefferson ‘LJ’ Go is the most talented junior ever to emerge from Cebu Country Club,” said Atty. Jovi Neri, one of the most avid of Cebuano golfers and himself a columnist in the Inquirer Golf magazine.

Atty. Neri wrote a full-length chronicle of LJ’s phenomenal 2011 season. Here’s the rest of Jovi’s story….

“LJ’s achievements were spectacular in the club level: two junior championships, twice shooting the junior competitive course record of 69, a men’s club championship top seeding, and twice top-scoring for the men’s PAL team.

“But his results in the national level were not reflective of his talent until this year, when he emerged not just among the top juniors but as one of the top men’s amateur golfers who can compete internationally.

“During the summer he took in a new coach, Andrew Ong. This gave him renewed motivation which he channeled into increased drive and work ethic. As changes take a while for results to come, all it took LJ was an incredible round one April afternoon.

“Plodding along in the middle of the field in the Junior World qualifier in Manila Southwoods, LJ came out of nowhere to shoot a spectacular final round 72 to jump five places and steal the final slot for the Junior World Championships in San Diego via sudden death over Gus Mata.

“The next week, LJ got his first champion trophy in Luzon with a nail-biting win in the Faldo Series Phils. Championship in Tat Filipinas Golf Club. He then headed to play the Phil. Junior Amateur – a major championship for juniors.

“Playing in Alabang Country Club, he scored two major upsets – starting with home-course hero Basti Lorenzo, then pre-tournament favorite Miggy Yee. In the semis, he faced Junior World Champion Rupert Zaragosa and was on the cusp of victory, 1-up with two holes to play, but lost. Zaragosa went on to win the championship.

“The following week in the Philippine Men’s Amateur Match Play, LJ did not play as he was preparing for his US trip. The eventually winner was Zaragosa but two of the semifinalists were Mata, whom he beat in Southwoods, and Yee, whom he upset in Alabang.

“Now it was off to America where LJ competed in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), regarded as the PGA Tour of junior golf. LJ flew to the USA with no assured slot in any AJGA event. He would have to play qualifying rounds where up to 75 golfers compete for 3 slots. He had to endure a 14-hour trip to Los Angeles followed by an 8-hour drive to Phoenix to play his first qualifying.

“Defying all the odds, fatigue, and jet lag, LJ teed it up in Moon Valley Golf Club – the course where Annika Sorenstam shot her historic 59 – and earned the last spot in the tournament via playoff. LJ shot rounds of 78-75-78 in his first AJGA tournament — respectable and good enough to win junior tournaments locally.  But there, he found himself tied for 55th — or 3rd to the last. It was a rude awakening.

“When he could have easily given up, LJ continued to grind it out and earned spots to more AJGA events. After Arizona, he played events in Nevada and California.

“In the Junior World Championships in San Diego, LJ opened with a 74 in Torrey Pines South, a course that hosted the ‘08 US Open, which was Tiger Woods’ last major win. It was the best score turned in by a Filipino all week and the best score by a Cebuano ever in that tough course.

“In PGA West Stadium – a course where Nicklaus and other golf superstars had competed in past Skins Games – LJ was the only one who played under par through two rounds and finished in the top 5.

“His final tournament – the Emerson Junior Classic – turned out to be his best. He closed with a 3-under par 69, the best score of the final round which earned him a special recognition. He finished 3rd place and earned enough points to jump 1000 places and move within earshot of being among the top 200 juniors in America – not bad considering he is a non-resident rookie playing limited events in his first season.”

Cecil teaches us a lesson in losing

Losing is painful. Last March, we experienced it. Last Sunday, once more, we succumbed to the same heartache. Sport is brutal. While one player raises his fists to the heavens and praises The Almighty, at the opposite end of the net, another slumps his head and closes his eyes.

We won and lost last weekend. In the final tally against a youthful team from Chinese Taipei, we lost in the Davis Cup. The score: 3-2. It was close. Too close. And that’s what makes the Friday to Sunday activity distressing.

In Friday’s first match at 10 A.M., our legendary netter named Cecil Mamiit won the first set. And while he lost the second set, in the crucial third set, he led 6-3. He had three set points. Would you believe, in two of those points, the shots from Chen Ti clipped the top of the net and, for a split second, the ball hovered on the air… then dropped on our side. Point, Chen. The crowd could not believe it. Then, as bad luck would have it, Cecil lost the third set tiebreaker and, eventually, the match. 1-0, Taiwan.

Treat Conrad Huey saved the day with a Thank-God-Its-Friday type of inspired play, swatting aces, slicing drop shots, easily disposing of Jimmy Wang in straight sets. 1-all by the end of Day One.

The Pinoys who gathered at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa were optimistic. This was better than our contest versus Japan last March when we trailed 0-2. On Saturday, we stood confident. The doubles pairing of Treat and Cecil was experienced and formidable. We won the first set. Easy. We lost the second. We won the third set. Easy. We needed only one more set… We lost the fourth set. Then, at six games all, with Treat’s left-handed serve ready to fire, he misfired. We got broken. The Taiwanese cheered “Jai-Ho!” They high-fived. After four hours of ping-pong games using yellow balls, we lost 8-6 in the fifth set.

Down 1-2, the hundreds who paraded towards Marigondon to sit on the world-class bleachers prepared by Mayor Paz Radaza and Councilor Harry Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City sat dejected. How can this be? How can this awful moment happen again?

Later that night, I spotted Cecil Mamiit having dinner by the pool with his team. Downtrodden? Feeling lowly and sad? Was that how our team captain felt? No! If you had spoken to him that evening and didn’t know what happened just 150 minutes earlier, you’d think Team Philippines won. That’s how upbeat Cecil was. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll win tomorrow. That was just extra practice. We wanted to provide more drama for the GMA TV network!” Smiling. That’s how he looked.

That night—regardless of what happens the next morning—I came to this realization: When you’re a top-flight athlete, you have to think like Cecil. What happened in the past is past. Nobody has a tape recorder to rewind the past.

Cecil had to completely erase the pain, replace it with happy thoughts, smile, get excited while everybody else looked sour, and expect to win. That’s the mindset of a champion. That’s why he’s beaten Michael Chang. That’s why Cecil was formerly world no. 72. That’s why he’s El Capitan. Positive, positive, positive. That’s what he taught me. That’s what he imparts to us.

Of course, by now, we know what happened the following day: Treat Huey led 3-1 in the first set, led 5-2 in the second set… but still lost in three sets. We lost. But Mr. Mamiit never focused on the negative. And, on the positive side, Jeson Patrombon showed the loudest cheerers of the weekend what a Bisaya is made of. (The joke: our team is composed of three Fil-Ams and one Il-Am… because Jeson is from Iligan.)

Jeson beat the former world no. 85 (Wang) in three sets. Cecil, who sat as coach to the 18-year-old, saw for himself the future Cecil… in Jeson.

Davis Cup photos

Jeson Patrombon (below) saves the day for Team Philippines, winning the 5th match in three sets. In the final tally, though, the Chinese Taipei squad defeated our Philippine team, 3-2. Sayang. We had plenty of chances. From Cecil Mamiit’s three set points in Day One to the painful 8-6 loss in the fifth set in Day Two to Treat Huey’s break-of-serve leads in the first and second sets in Sunday’s finale. Still, it was an exciting finish.. especially with the 18-year-old Iligan City player’s (Jeson’s) victory over Jimmy Wang, formerly ranked No. 85 in the world.

To Cecil, Treat, Ruben, Jeson, Johnny and Randy Villanueva… the loss was painful but, like you did last March against Japan, you gave it everything you got. You’re the pride of Philippine Tennis. The Cebuanos applaud you!

Check out more photos in this link.

Ace! Tomorrow, it’s the first serve of Davis Cup

Cecil, Jeson, Ruben, Johnny and Treat

At 10 A.M. today at the Lapu-Lapu City Hall, the official draw of the Davis Cup tie between the Philippines and Chinese Taipei will happen.

Tomorrow, the Battle of Mactan starts. The first match commences at 10 in the morning. The second match immediately follows. All the sword- and racket-fighting will happen just kilometers away from the actual site where Lapu Lapu killed Magellan. Cecil Mamiit and Treat Conrad Huey are expected to play the two singles games tomorrow. On Saturday, starting at 12 noon, it’s the doubles. Then, during the finale on Sunday, it’s the two reverse singles.

We’re lucky. One, it appears that the top two netters of Taiwan are not standing today in our island. Lu Yen-hsun and Yang Tsung-hua (unless they make a surprise landing) are in China for an ATP Challenger event.

Two, the battle is not in Taipei or in Manila—but here in our Visayan city.

Three, the “extras” that the organizers have prepared for the crowd are ready…  I was at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa tennis court two afternoons ago to watch Jeson Patrombon, Ruben Gonzales and the rest of our PHL team practice. Nets (or, diffusers, as we call them) have been installed above the bleachers to help shade the spectators.

Also, to those having difficulty finding a ride to Marigondon, free shuttle buses can be availed of. From 6:30 to 8:30 A.M. tomorrow until Sunday, these buses will park at the South Surface Parking area of Ayala Center (near Oh! George)—ready to ferry the viewers.

Friday (tomorrow) is the most crucial day of the weekend. That’s why I urge everyone… watch tomorrow. It’s the best tennis day of the weekend. Bring your cap and sunscreen, wear shorts… and go tomorrow.

See you at the Davis Cup!

DJOKOVIC. If you think, because of the sweat that drips and the muscles that flex, that sport is all physical… think again. It’s mental. Sure, sport requires the physical. Boxers jab. Sprinters burst. Swimmers breathe. Volleyball spikers jump and slam. In sport, if your body is weak and wobbly, forget it. You might as well stick to painting or be Charice Pempengco.

But this I also know is true: Sport is mental. While your arms strike and your legs flutter, who controls these bodily parts? Your brain.

Novak Djokovic’s brain is unyielding. It’s the most forceful, robust and unbending brain in tennis today. At the other day’s US Open final, he beat the 10-slam champ, Rafa Nadal. Djokovic was injured after that third set. His back ached. His serve ached. But, in the end, it was Nadal who was in pain.

In pain from the most painful of losses. He lost the Open in New York. He lost in Wimbledon. He lost to the same Serbian strongman six times out of six times this 2011… all of them in finals.

Nobody does this to Rafa. Not even the Swiss. In the same way that when Roger Federer faces Rafa from across the net, a simmer of doubt weaves through his brain, it’s the same with Rafa vs. Novak.

Rafa knows. Novak knows. They both know who’s going to win. Mental. It’s all in the mind. But, for all the successes this year of Novak (John McEnroe calls it “one of the greatest ever”), his total earnings is ONLY $10.5 million. Only? Yes, only. Because while he won 64 of 66 matches this year, his earnings pale in comparison to one Pinoy who’ll pocket at least $20,000,000 in a short 36 minutes (maximum) this November 12.

ULTRAMAN. Congratulations to Joel Garganera. This man is unstoppable. His perseverance is inexhaustible. I recall, together with Atan and Jeson Guardo, us meeting at a coffee shop in Ayala a couple of years ago. I gave Joel a few tips on how to tackle the Hong Kong Marathon, their group’s first 42K run.

Last weekend at the Warrior 53K Ultramarathon, Mr. Garganera did not just finish—he was the 4th fastest runner! To top that, here’s an even more amazing fact: that was Joel’s 19th marathon/ultra-marathon—in a span of just 2 1/2 years.

FINALLY… Have you watched the 24/7 HBO special on Mayweather-Ortiz in YouTube? You should.

Can Huey treat us to a DC win over Taiwan?

Everybody who wears red gloves, who clenches their fists, grits their teeth, and confronts this Filipino diamond named Manny Pacquiao says the same thing: I’ll beat that Man.

Everybody, at the end of the 3rd or the 7th or the 12th round, with eyes swollen, ribs mutilated, cheekbones tarnished—all testify in unison: Man, he’s too good.

The last time someone defeated Pacquiao? The year was 2007. His name wasn’t David Diaz or Ricky Hatton or Joshua Clottey. All those and many more lost to MP.

The last one? A she: Darlene Antonino-Custodio. That was fought in the political ring—an arena unlike Manny’s preferred stage.

With boxing, it’s been 14 straight wins for Pacman. Not since March 2005—or six-and-a-half years ago; against San Miguel Beer endorser Erik Morales—has our modern-day Jose Rizal experienced a loss.

This November 12, Manny is assured of Victory No. 15 in the same way that Ateneo will surely win the UAAP crown. It’s a future fact that we know today.

Looking back, the first time Juan Manuel Marquez battled Pacquiao was in 2004. The score was a draw. Then, the second time they punctured each other’s abdomens, J-M-M beat M-P. You and I witnessed it. Yes, it was a close, close war—but I thought our man lost. Yet… our Man’ won. That was 3 ½ years ago.

Two months from now, when the Mexican and the taga-GenSan meet again, it won’t be a perplexing debate to judge. Marquez is 38 years old. That’s way too young to be a grandfather—but way too old to be a fighter. Manny will ambush him; he’ll bat his head with his knuckles; he’ll bust his jaws; Manny will wallop every inch of Juan Manuel’s bare chest and face and bloody him down to the floor of Las Vegas.

Bob Arum, nearly 80, is boxing’s Mr. Experience. He knows and we know that, this November, Manny will use the Mexican as a punching bag for next year’s Mayweather quarrel.

TREAT HUEY is in the Round of 16 of the US Open. Today, he and partner Somdev Devvarman will play the Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuphati. Their match is scheduled at the Grandstand Court.

I’ve had the chance, exactly a dozen years ago this week, to sit on the hallowed chairs of the Grandstand Court. Unlike the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which seats 22,000, and the Louis Armstrong Stadium (10,000 capacity), the Grandstand Court (6,000 seats) is cozier. I hope their match gets shown on Balls TV.

Have you been watching the US Open? The early sleeper that I am, I haven’t. This event starts 11 A.M. in New York and, with our 12-hour time difference, this translates to an 11 P.M. beginning here.

I did watch portions of Novak Djokovic last Sunday morning. With his mental strength like that of UFC champion Anderson Silva, the Serbian world No. 1 aims to add a third major this 2011 to his Australian Open and Wimbledon victories.

DAVIS CUP. Buy your tickets now! This was the unanimous message at our press conference yesterday attended by several officials: Ken Salimbangon, Nestor Toledo, Randy Villanueva, Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Harry Radaza, Jess Lagman and Dr. Tony San Juan.

Ticket prices for next weekend’s (Sept. 16 to 18) Davis Cup matches between our Philippines versus Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) start at P200. Yes. No typographical error there. That’s P200 for one full day of international sporting competition.

Why the low prices? “Cecil (Mamiit) is requesting that we fill-up the entire grandstand with Cebuanos,” said Philta’s Randy Villanueva. Last March, when we faced Japan, the clay-court at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa was about 70 percent full. Not bad. But not good enough. Echoed Hon. Harry Don Radaza: “We want 100 percent capacity.”

Tickets are available at Chris Sports at Ayala Center or SM City. You can also call (032) 518-4455 or 0923-9784497.

You’ll be treated to the newfound confidence of Treat. You’ll observe the Michael Chang-like fighting spirit of Mr. Mamiit. You’ll witness, for the first time, the forehand of Jeson Patrombon and the smash of Ruben Gonzales.

Don’t miss this treat.

Manny vs Juan Manuel

Everybody who wears red gloves, who clenches their fists, grits their teeth, and confronts this Filipino diamond named Manny Pacquiao says the same thing: I’ll beat that Man.

Everybody, at the end of the 3rd or the 7th or the 12th round, with eyes swollen, ribs mutilated, cheekbones tarnished—all testify in unison: Man, he’s too good.

The last time someone defeated Pacquiao? The year was 2007. His name wasn’t David Diaz or Ricky Hatton or Joshua Clottey. All those and many more lost to MP.

The last one? A she: Darlene Antonino-Custodio. That was fought in the political ring—an arena unlike Manny’s preferred stage.

With boxing, it’s been 14 straight wins for Pacman. Not since March 2005—or six-and-a-half years ago; against San Miguel Beer endorser Erik Morales—has our modern-day Jose Rizal experienced a loss.

This November 12, Manny is assured of Victory No. 15 in the same way that Ateneo will surely win the UAAP crown. It’s a future fact that we know today.

Looking back, the first time Juan Manuel Marquez battled Pacquiao was in 2004. The score was a draw. Then, the second time they punctured each other’s abdomens, J-M-M beat M-P. You and I witnessed it. Yes, it was a close, close war—but I thought our man lost. Yet… our Man’ won. That was 3 ½ years ago.

Two months from now, when the Mexican and the taga-GenSan meet again, it won’t be a perplexing debate to judge. Marquez is 38 years old. That’s way too young to be a grandfather—but way too old to be a fighter. Manny will ambush him; he’ll bat his head with his knuckles; he’ll bust his jaws; Manny will wallop every inch of Juan Manuel’s bare chest and face and bloody him down to the floor of Las Vegas.

Bob Arum, nearly 80, is boxing’s Mr. Experience. He knows and we know that, this November, Manny will use the Mexican as a punching bag for next year’s Mayweather quarrel.

Aboitiz Golf: The winner is Cebu Country Club

Yesterday was Bobby Aboitiz’s birthday. Instead of a text message, I was able to greet him in person, while walking and observing the land’s best golfers. In the tournament named after his family name, Bobby watched. So did his brother, Jon Ramon. Both strolled, clapped, moved aside when a Ping! sounded from the tee mound.

BAYRON. Last Tuesday, two days before the Aboitiz Invitational started, Atty. Jovi Neri approached many of the professionals and asked their prediction for the winning score. Some said 5-under-par. Others said 2-under. A few answered: 8-under. Only one person had the audacity to declare that the winning score would be 12-under.

His name: Jay Bayron. In the end, we know that Jay did not score anywhere near that number but, according to Atty. Neri, it proves the confidence of Mr. Bayron.

What confidence yesterday! He birdied four of the last six holes. At No. 16, after he sank a long putt for another birdie, he smiled a smile that beamed as wide as the fairway. “He’s in the groove,” said Bobby Aboitiz.

Wearing all black—pants, cap and shirt—compared to the pink trousers of Elmer Salvador and the bright blue striped T-shirt of Jonathan Moore (who was a former teammate of Rickie Fowler), there was nothing dark black about his game.

Reliving last year’s winning walk during the 2010 edition of the Aboitiz Invitational, he did the same yesterday. Teeing off at 8:20 a.m., as each hour passed and as every hole was scratched from his To-Do List, he chipped off the leader-board’s scores.

At exactly 12:40 p.m., surrounded by hundreds of CCC members, caddies, Aboitiz cap-wearing spectators, and one American (Moore) and a fellow Davaoeño (Salvador), he punched his final putt into the cup.

The crowd applauded. Handshakes ensued. Digital cameras were clicked. Jiggy Junior, whose Y101 voice reverberated from the loudspeakers, said: “He has done it again!”

Jay Bayron took off his black cap, bowed to the gallery at the CCC veranda, then smiled. Everyone smiled. Jay’s brother, Rufino, lifted his brother up on the air.

Then, the air sounded. Thunder roared. Dark, gray-black skies enveloped the greens. It was as if, by perfect timing, not only the crowds cheered—but the skies wanted to clap, too.

Finally, in a hard-to-believe moment, barely 10 minutes after Bayron’s winning putt, rained poured. There was no rain this entire week. The sun baked the visitors. Umbrellas were opened—not for water but for the sun. In contrast, the previous week, Cebu was drenched. Daily, it showered. But not this week. Until 10 minutes after The End.

What timing! Had Basti Lacson, who orchestrated this massive successful operation, also negotiated a direct line Upstairs for the impeccable timing?

Kudos to Aboitiz. Well done.

CCC. When I asked for a commentary from the golfer whose blast off the tee can outdistance most of the visiting pros (he averages over 300 yards), the reply of Marko Sarmiento was clear and loud: Cebu Country Club was the winner.

Puzzled, I asked why. Marko explained what Frederic Chiongbian, Clifford Celdran and Pres. Montito Garcia already know: Months back when the Asian Development Tour (ADT) officials visited for an inspection, they grumbled. This par-72 course is too easy. The scores are too low. Let’s make it difficult.

Difficult they did. Holes 7 and 11 were transformed from par-5s to par-4s. The fairways were squeezed narrower. Grass at the sides, grown taller. Most of all, the greens were cut so short that, in some holes, you can see a hint of brown—the soil.

The result? Possibly the most difficult CCC course since its founding in 1928. (Good thing, in the last two days, the greens were wet early in the morning. This moistened the putting grounds. If not, the same hard bounces in the first two days would have occurred.)

Marko’s correct. It was as if the U.S. Open were held in Cebu. Who’d have imagined that only one—Jay Bay’—will score below par?

The Cup of Golf and the Davis Cup

One is an international event while the other is an event between nations. They’re the same. One uses a white synthetic ball while the other, a yellow fuzzy ball. They’re the same.

The Aboitiz Invitational 2011 is the most prestigious golf event to land in Cebu. It’s happening today. Yesterday. Tomorrow. And Saturday.

The Davis Cup 2011 is the most illustrious tennis event to bounce in Cebu. It’s not happening yet. The dates are September 16 to 18.

Today happens to be the very first ‘BER day of the year—we’re SeptemBER 1—and the Davis Cup is only 15 days away.

Isn’t our island lucky? The four-day golf-fest now being played at Cebu Country Club could easily have been situated in Davao’s Apo Golf or Laguna’s Caliraya Springs or Manila’s Canlubang. But it’s here. Right across the “soon-to-open” Ciudad. Cebu is blessed. We, Cebuanos, are blessed. Same with the sport that’s being played in Flushing Meadows, New York. It’s called tennis.

The Davis Cup clash between the Philippines and Chinese Taipei could easily have been held at the Rizal Memorial courts in Manila or the Philippine Columbian Association (PCA) indoor facility. But, no. The venue is here. Like golf. It’s at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. The island… ah, Cebu. My point is this: Let’s watch!!

These twin tournaments just two weeks apart are the paramount sporting marvels of this Year of the Cat.

With the Aboitiz Invitational, I watched for nearly 60 minutes yesterday—thanks to the personal tour by Atty. Jovi Neri, a 4-handicapper whose best score in CCC is an astonishing 67. Jovi drove the golf cart of Clifford Celdran. We followed Elmer Salvador, whose 1-over final score was the best by noontime.

Chuckie Hong? Playing his first pro tournament on his Cebu home court, I watched him wear a REDGOLF cap and drive that first drive on Hole No. 10. A friend to all the caddies and local CCC boys, he received the loudest applause.

(Sun.Star photo)

Miguel Tabuena was impressive. Only 16 years old, the “Boy Wonder of Golf” flew in from Taiwan a couple of days ago. We shook hands. “The last time I played on this course,” said the 2010 Asian Games silver medalist, “was when I was only nine years old.” Mig shot a 2-over. I left at noon and, by then, the scores were high. One pro logged a 9-over.

The reason for the high scores: “The greens were very, very hard.” Those words were uttered by Miguel T., about the same age as our top guns named LJ Go and Gio Gandionco.

What I found unusual yesterday was that very few people watched. Entering CCC around 11:15 A.M., I expected to find difficulty parking. Only a dozen cars were parked. This is perplexing. Or, maybe not. Because while the distinguished and exalted of golfers are joining, there’s no Phil M. or TW1 or even a Keegan Bradley, the PGA Championship winner. Also, yesterday was a Wednesday—the first working day after a four-day-long weekend. Everybody’s busy; at work.

Still, I hope more people watch. Today. Tomorrow. Especially on the finale, on Saturday. Be you a golfer or a non-golfer, the perfect mix of blue skies with putting greens and multi-colored Asian and European and American golfers ought to make you visit the Country Club.

Back to the Davis Cup tennis: This is another not-to-be-missed contest. Our players are: Cecil Mamiit, previously ranked as high as world No. 72 and was the “sparring” (or make that “hitting”) partner of Maria Sharapova; there’s Treat Huey, world-ranked No. 71 in doubles; and two newcomers: Jeson Patrombon and Ruben Gonzales.

Chinese Taipei? Team Taiwan is led by Lu Yen-Hsun. Currently No. 82, he was once ranked as high as world No. 33. If he comes to Lapu-Lapu City… Oh, no… it will be tough. (Update: In his first round U.S. Open match yesterday, he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. This means he might come to Cebu!).

Davis Cup tickets, priced at only P200/day or P500 for three days, are now available at Chris Sports SM or Ayala. Get your DC tickets now.