Mendoza: Title drought in PAL Media Golf unbroken

Al S. Mendoza

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.

A pity.

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.

Even steven.

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.

I did.

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?