Mendoza: ‘Saving the best for last’

Al Mendoza.
Al Mendoza.Al Mendoza.

IN his heyday, Tiger Woods was one of golf’s best finishers. He could terrifyingly transform a lost cause into a won game in a snap. If there’s one guy who adheres to the saying, “saving the best for last,” that’s Tiger Woods.

I won’t get tired saying it.

In the mid-80s, during the 10-and-under division of the World Juniors in San Diego, California, Tiger Woods wondrously waxed hot before my very eyes.

Down one shot with one hole to go, Woods, then nine years old, birdied the last hole at Presidio Hills to defeat our very own, Martin Valdes.

At an early age, Woods displayed his vaunted killer’s instinct, delicately landing his approach on a green that was as tiny as a postage stamp.

Shaken, Valdes missed the green en route to a double bogey after Woods made birdie from 10 feet.

So downtrodden was Valdes that he refused to receive his runner-up trophy, sobbing as he walked away from the 18th green during the awarding ceremony. Martin’s Dad, Gabby, received the trophy.

Years later, Jake P. Ayson and I would bump into Martin Valdes in Orlando, Florida. It was during a break for Jake and I from an international golf rules seminar at Pontevedra’s tough-as-nails Sawgrass in the company of the esteemed, late and lamented, Vince Villafuerte.

Martin, who completely abandoned golf after that loss to Tiger Woods, was then working at Orlando’s Epcot-Disneyland. He was gracious enough to give us free tickets to the famed tourist destination.

And you know what? Martin Valdes was also then a next-door-neighbor of Woods’ at Sawgrass.

“I was avoiding him for years and yet, fate made us neighbors,” said Martin. “Whoa!”

And why was Tiger Woods my topic again today?

Well, I remember him after learning of Aidric Chan’s topping the recent Philippine Golf Tour Q-School in Davao’s South Pacific where my buddy Tommy Inigo works as golf manager.

In so doing, Chan fired a final-round, four-under-par 68—a mighty finish that augured well for his coming debut in the Tour that tees off this week at Davao’s lengthy, tree-laden Apo.

With a windup as solid as that, Chan, the pride of Manila Southwoods, would be a marked man in the 10-leg Tour.

He’d be more formidable if he could continue “saving his best for last” at all times—if not frequently.


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