WORKING closely with the Royal & Ancient of Scotland, the National Golf Association of the Philippines has got its grassroots development program in full swing at the Malarayat course in Lipa City and the Binitin layout in Murcia in Bacolod.
After getting financial backing from the world governing body of golf, the NGAP started with a field of close to 200 youngsters on both layouts as the Philippines hopes to develop major international talents from the ground up for a sport that will mark its return to the Olympics in 2016.
Al Panlilio, the MVP Sports Foundation president, and Gigi Montinola, a retired bank executive, are personally spearheading the program which is tapping kids from 7 to 16 and giving them the basics of the game through former world junior champions Carito Villaroman and Ramon Brobio.
“The goal of the NGAP is for the country to be represented in the Olympics starting in 2016,” Panlilio, who also sits as treasurer of the NGAP board, said. “These kids won’t make the Brazil Games, but maybe we can find our representatives in the next Olympics from this group.”
This marks the first time that the R&A has given significant backing to an NGAP program, one which was submitted by president Tommy Manotoc and vice-president Caloy Coscoluella earlier in the year.
The R&A had issued 74 brand new junior golf sets, hundreds of balls and a grant of 20,000 pounds, which Montinola, also an avid golfer, matched, to get the program going.
“You can’t go wrong with these kids, especially if they start the game being mentored by coaches who know what it takes to play – and win – internationally,” Montinola said.
Ever since the program started in Lipa City through the help of Malarayat manager Mike Carr, and in Murcia town in Bacolod through the efforts of Coscoluella late last month, Villaroman, Brobio and swing guru Boyet Zaragosa have gone periodically to those two provinces on weekends to teach along with local pros JR Tanpinco and Jun Rates.
The interest generated by the program has gotten such huge support, with local companies and foundations like the one named after the late Alex Montelibano in Bacolod pitching in.
After this, the NGAP will continue with its numerous junior events lined up for next year, tournaments which these youngsters could target participating in for continuity in the learning process.