IT WAS 20 years ago today, when I was down with 18 holes to play.
Jake P. Ayson was up by seven strokes, but I was determined to win by hook or by crook.
Did I win?
Did Jake win?
Not so fast.
Let me take you to a magical mystery golf.
Revisit the battlefield, if only to rekindle memories past that shook my world for nearly five hours.
Ugh, the first three-and-half hours were hell.
Upps, by the fourth hour of a hot and humid day, it was purgatory.
But, holy smokes, in the last 30 minutes, the skies had started clearing up.
Did a rainbow appear?
Was a pot of gold ready to peep out from a nook?
Jake’s seven-shot lead had been chopped down to one. Just one.
He had assembled that seven-shot bubble in masterful fashion the day before at Bacolod’s sun-baked Binitin off Murcia, Negros Occidental.
Slowly but surely, I nibbled at Jake’s massive margin in the second and final round at Victorias near Bacolod City.
On 17, I found myself in the rough. Errant tee shot.
With much courage and a spirit that refused to wilt, I punched out from under the trees. Perfect. Twenty feet before the green.
I chipped to some 12 feet left of the hole. Staring at a straight putt, I rammed it home—the cup suddenly appearing like a manhole. Par against Jake’s bogey.
As I stood on the tee mound of the 18th and last hole, I summoned all of me.
“Just green it and it’s all yours, Al,” I kept telling myself.
Jake would succumb to pressure, missing the green. Two on. Two putts. Bogey.
I two-putted. My second straight par gave me a one-shot victory—my come-from-behind win coming auspiciously on the PAL Interclub’s 50th year in 1997.
That was 20 years ago today.
The year I won marked the first time that PAL gave a Manila-New York-Manila ticket. Business class.
I gave it to my one and only daughter.
Upon her return from the Big Apple, she hugged me tight and said: “I cannot thank you enough, Pops.”
She handed me a book by Jim Murray, America’s most celebrated sportswriter of all time.
“My humble pasalubong to the best Tatay in the world,” was her dedication in the book.
I haven’t won the PAL Media Golf since.
Who cares about a 20-year title drought?