In golf, the master of all is the…

Of the four major championships of this sport that involves birdies, best balls, bogeys and bunkers, there is only one where the venue never changes. The three others — the U.S. Open, The Open (British) and the PGA Championship — change their tournament site each year. Not The Masters. Not the first major championship of the season that’s held at the Augusta National Golf Club every first full week of April.

“The first time I played the Masters,” said Chi-Chi Rodriguez, a Hall of Famer, “I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off. I shot the happiest 83 of my life.” That’s the type of bliss and exuberance that The Masters elicits. For no four days of golf is followed more than the one that begins today and ends on Sunday.

Maria Johnson, formerly “Bebot Pacaña” before she moved to the U.S. 35 years ago, is a friend of mine. A 4-handicapper, she lives in Georgia and had the opportunity to visit in 2009. “From the moment I stepped inside the gate of Augusta National, I was taken by the excitement and the beauty of it all,” she said. “I have watched the tournament on TV year after year but there is nothing like seeing it live. As it was, and as it always seems to be, Augusta National abounds in pristine surroundings, immaculate fairways and stunning botanical beauty. The sides of the fairways were filled with rows of Azaleas of various colors, pink and white dogwoods, century-old Magnolias, Holly and Oak trees. What a magnificent sight! From a distance, the greens shimmered like linoleum floors not yielding much even to the best putters in the world.”

To a child, a visit to this par-72, 7,435-yard golf course is like a trip to Disneyland. For tennis buffs like Stephen Lim and Ken Salimbangon, it’s la Sunday finale at Wimbledon. To Jesse Bernad, the World Series. To Montito Garcia, the new president of the Cebu Country Club, it’s a personal trip to The Masters — an act Montito was able to fulfill in 2003.

Upon the invitation of Mirant, the power company, Montito stayed the full four days. “The boss of Mirant was an avid golfer so he rented three houses in Augusta,” said Montito. “We had a chef and everything was complete. It was fantastic. The first three days, although it was “lapok” because of the rain, we watched. Finally, on Sunday, we played at East Lake, the home course of Bobby Jones. We played early morning then watched the final few holes when Mike Weir won. Augusta is hallowed ground. It’s beautiful.”

Luckily for us here in Cebu, we’ll witness this same beauty because The Masters will be shown on TV. Based on a quick research (, coverage on ESPN begins this 12 midnight but the live showing starts at 3 a.m. tomorrow. It’s expected to be aired until 7:30 a.m. Which means that we expect many, many golfers to rise very, very early starting tomorrow at dawn until Monday.

Back to the first-hand description of Mrs. Maria Johnson, she said: “The temperature was in the low 40s and the breeze made it feel even colder. The inclement weather did not bode well for me. It is but one of those forces of nature that is beyond control and cannot be made to go away. But the excitement of being there deterred my thoughts from the freezing wind and warmed me from inside out.

“Electricity filled the air at Augusta National that day. Roars and groans could be heard all over as players produced plenty of thrills. Patrons lined up around the tees and fairways to see and follow their favorites who, once they had teed off at the first hole, went about their business, hardly speaking except to their caddies.

“It was exciting to see my favorite players but as I walked through the ‘course,’ I realized that their presence was only the second or third most exciting thing that day. The fact of the matter is that just being at Augusta National was a dream come true, and my experience created a lifelong memory.”

Categorized as Golf

Exercise alone does not make us healthy

I’m 38 years old. My body weight is 146 lbs. Each day, I pedal that mountain-bike, smash a tennis ball, or run. Twice, I’ve crossed the 42K finish line. You’d consider me extremely fit, right? Apparently, not. My cholesterol level is 271.

Last Saturday morning, a nurse from Hi-Precision extracted blood from my right arm. Later that night, I got the result. For those who know cholesterol, the supposed borderline is 200. Anything beyond is bad. Mine was 271. Despite my relatively youthful age. Despite my lean frame. Despite my deep passion for sports — which I perform as often as I eat breakfast. Ouch. It was a shocker. My very first time to have a blood chemistry, I was bewildered. What happened? I took the blood test as part of the Holistic Approach to Self Healing (HASH) program last weekend.

The culprit? The reason behind my failure at the medical check-up? My diet. You see, I used to think this way: I sweat and exert so much physical effort — thus, I can eat anything. And, yes, I eat everything: lechon skin, Coca-Cola almost daily, ice cream, chicken skin from Sunburst, fried food, and, of course, my all-time favorite… steak.

Well, after all the talks given during the “Detox” and wellness seminar last weekend at the Marco Polo Hotel (there will be another one this May 15), now I know better. Exercise cannot compensate for bad eating habits. Sure, biking and running work. They help. They strengthen the heart. They are good. But, they are not enough to keep us healthy. My LDL count? The borderline is 130. Anything beyond that spells trouble. Mine is 186. 186! What have I learned? Simple: Diet is all-important. Starting last Sunday, I made a vow. I’ll still eat lechon and indulge in Don Merto’s steak — but I’ll consume less.

Dr. Dale Flores, the U.S.-trained food expert who handled most of the weekend’s lectures, requested the 67 men and women who joined the HASH Seminar: “Do not deprive yourself of food that you like, even if it’s unhealthy. But take it sparingly.” I’ll follow that mantra.

Also, I’ll eat more fruits. (As our business is selling fresh fruit juices, I should consume the most bananas, apples and watermelons!) Vegetables? Oh, no. This is a weakness. Though I love broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, arugula and a few more, I’m far from being a vegetarian. I’m a meat-lover. Like most. Yet, I have to eat more vegetables. You and I know this. We’ve been taught this since pre-school. I vow to eat more greens.

Soft-drinks? I love Root-Beer and Coke. Remember the old advertisement… “Coke adds life!”? To me — and millions worldwide — it does. But it also “lessens” life; as the sugar content unknowingly kills us.

How about coffee? This was difficult. Prior to the Saturday morning check-in at Marco Polo, we were asked to refrain from meat, soft-drinks, artificial juice, etc. for 48 hours. That wasn’t too difficult. But that list included coffee. A coffee-drinker since 2007, I sip that aromatic brown beverage every 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. I haven’t missed that ritual for 45 months. Until last Thursday to Sunday. It weakened my senses. I had a slight headache. (Would you believe, due partly to wooziness, I forgot to button my pants last Friday! Good thing, Jasmin noticed.) I had become, as I suspected, addicted. Coffee, it turns out during the lecture, is not bad. (There are 1,001 debatable issues on its pros and cons.) The key point is moderation. My two cups every 24 hours is okay.

The whole conclusion I derived from last weekend? You are what you eat. Eat junk and this junk will turn you into a junk-like car of a person. You’ll pay for it. I also learned, as earlier pointed out, that plenty of exercise is no excuse for good, healthy eating. I’ve learned that the fittest people are those that combine both: Healthy eating + plenty of sweating. That’s what I’ll strive to do. They say “Life begins at 40.” Well, before I turn that age in a year’s time, I’ll eat well. For me: Healthy Life begins at 40.

Categorized as Health