Before he became a golf champ, Jay Bayron was caddie for a Davao hacker named Digong
Former Apo caddies and now tour pros Jay Bayron (left), Jhonnel Ababa and Rufino Bayron recall President Duterte's golf days at the Apo course in Davao. Dodo Catacutan

BEFORE he rose to become one of the country's top golfers, Jay Bayron was one of the many sun-burnt Davao boys roaming the fairways of the Apo Golf and Country Club to work as caddies.

One of his regular customers happened to be Rodrigo Duterte, who, according to Bayron, used to play regularly at the Apo layout in the late nineties back when Digong was rounding out his third term as Davao mayor and preparing for his transition to congressman.

"Teenager pa ako noon, nagka-caddie sa Apo," said Bayron, one of the many former Apo kids who rose to become national amateur champions and later golf pros - a list that included Tony Lascuna, Cassius Casas, Elmer Salvador, Jhonnel, Gil and Cesar Ababa and Bong Lopez.

Long before he became President, Duterte, Bayron said, used to play once or twice a week at the famed par-72 layout with friends that included Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and was passionate enough about the game to spend hours at the Apo driving range fine-tuning his swing.

Bayron said Duterte was good enough to break 100 in most of the days when he carried his bag, but was inconsistent with his long game. His irons were the strength of his game, the tour pro added.

"May pagka-wild (off the tee)," Baryon, a one-time Order of Merit winner both in the local pro golf circuit and in the Asian Development Tour, said.

But unlike his public persona, Duterte, Bayron said, was full off banter in the fairways and rarely lost his cool.

"Ma-joke s'ya at makwento," he said.

Duterte, Bayron said, was also a generous tipper. The then Davao mayor routinely gathered all the 'pulot boys' in the driving range (including Jay's brother Rufino and fellow pro Jhonnel Ababa), lined them up, then instructed his bodyguards to give them spare cash.

"Pipila kami at bibigyan kami ng tigsi-singkwenta (P50)," said Rufino. "Tuwang tuwa kami noon."

And did Digong win most of the friendly bets?

"Oo naman," Jay Bayron said, bursting into laughter. "Ayaw manalo ng mga kalaban."

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