Judging from the legion of spectators that swamped the Cebu Country Club last Friday—there to see the likes of Frankie Miñoza, Artemio Murakami, Angelo Que, Juvic Pagunsan and Jay Bayron, the eventual winner who carded an 11-under and pocketed P200,000—the Aboitiz Invitational was a monumental success.
Bayani Garcia, the reigning CCC champion, joined. He displayed the widest of smiles two afternoons ago—thanks to his marvelous performance over 54 holes. In a Q & A yesterday, here’s our Cebu hero…
How confident were you competing with the best? “I’ve been preparing for quite a while now so I was confident. It was great to play with and against the country’s best pros and amateurs. Anytime you get to play with the ‘All-Stars’ of Philippine golf… it’s always a treat.”
Any extra pressure being the CCC champion? “Not at all. I came into this tournament with no expectations and with nothing to lose. My family, the club and everyone gave me their full support. Sure, it was my home course and I was club champion but I just told myself to have fun, relax and relish this amazing week because the opportunity to play the cream of the crop comes very rarely.”
With scores of 72, 71 and 74, you finished at 1-over and almost won (by just two strokes) the Low Amateur Award among the non-pro golfers. How did you rate your game? “I was more than pleased with my performance. About a month ago, I joined the Apo Leg in Davao. It was my first time to join a pro tournament and, I must admit, the pressure was there. I missed the cut. The Davao leg was a gut check for me. And so entering this week, my sole objective was to make the cut. I knew I had a good shot of coming close (maybe 3rd to 5th) at low amateur since my local knowledge of the course would be a luxury.
“When I made the cut and saw that I was in a good position to win low amateur, I felt like I was dreaming. How in the world did I get myself in this situation! I thought. I just focused, concentrated and gave it my best in every shot. It would have been great if I won but it was not meant to be.
“There were about 30 amateurs; eight from our CCC PAL team: Carl Almario, Eric Deen, Charles Hong, Jovi Neri, Gen Nagai, Marko Sarmiento, LJ Go, and myself. After the second day, it was Carl and I who were left.”
Who were your closest friends who joined? “I knew most of the pros and amateurs, dating back from the PAL tournaments and the Philippine Amateurs. There were a few pros who stayed at our home. The pros I bonded with were Marvin Dumandan (Aboitiz 3rd placer and a 2-time winner on the Phil. Golf Tour), Jerome Delariarte (multiple PGT winner and Asian tour member), Anthony Fernando and Louie Dacudao.
“It was great bonding with these pros. Not only are they role models on the course, they were great people to hang around with. It was good seeing their lighter side. We also had a great time hanging out after, dining in Cebu-based restaurants then having a few drinks at home before retiring early.”
How would you rate this tournament? “It was a great success! Hats off to Aboitiz, ICTSI, MJ Carr Productions and, of course, Cebu Country Club. Rarely do you see all the top guns in the same field. This leg was like a major championship because of the magnitude of the star power. All credit goes to the organizers. The golf course was in excellent shape thanks to the CCC board of directors and GM Clifford Celdran.”
How big an event was this for us? “The Cebu leg has long been overdue. The golfing population here is increasing. This tournament serves as inspiration to junior golfers. It gives Cebuanos a chance to witness first-hand how top golfers in our country—and in Asia—play.
“This could be a regular tour stop; a ‘major’ in Phil. golf. Cebu has a lot of upcoming talent and these tournaments are what’s needed for these prodigies to hone their skills, gain experience and see how they size up. At the same time, the pros can offer insights and lessons to youngsters—thanks to the clinic organized by Aboitiz.”