Mendoza: Interclub’s heavenly gift

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Mendoza.File photo

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) Interclub Golf will always have a special spot in my heart, so special, actually, that I will drop everything just to cover it — or be in it personally, rain or shine, come hell or high water.

The tournament’s ongoing edition in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and Bukidnon that teed off on Thursday, Feb. 22, and will end on March 4 is no exception.

The battle grounds are in CDO’s charming Pueblo de Oro and Manolo Fortich’s iconic Del Monte in Bukidnon. They are courses I have learned to love through the years.

This year’s occasion is exceedingly momentous because the famed event is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Diamond. How many tournaments in the world, golf or otherwise, can last that long?

The tournament’s founding fathers, like Andres Soriano and Benjamin Toda, must be smiling Up There, overly ecstatic even as they watch their successors, led presently by PAL chieftain Lucio “El Kapitan” Tan, continue with consuming passion what they had started in 1947.

What began seven or so decades ago as a mere friendship event among PAL golfers from Bacolod, Cebu and Davao has become, not only as the country’s unofficial team championship, but a breeding ground as well of future golf greats.

One of the most enduring PAL Interclub discoveries is Frankie Minoza, who, at 63, is still very much around competing against the country’s top pros.

It was in 1977 in Cebu’s defunct Club Filipino de Cebu that Minoza, then only 17, displayed his innate talent to emerge the tournament’s top player while representing Del Monte.

I covered Minoza’s exploits then for Bulletin Today (Manila Bulletin’s martial law name), serving as my baptism of fire at PAL Interclub.

In 1991, I covered Minoza again during his historic stint in the 1991 Masters in Augusta, Georgia. He missed the cut due to allergy-induced soreness on both eyes. But by just being there was heaven enough for him. Me, too. The Masters is golf’s Vatican.

And what is thus far the most heavenly aspect to me in the PAL Interclub? None other than my victory in the 1997 PAL Media Golf in Bacolod, coinciding with the PAL Interclub’s golden anniversary.

That beats everything as my victory earned me two tickets Manila-New York-Manila. Business class. Felt like a million miler.


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