Golf flourished during the Covid-19 pandemic as shown by the rising number of Filipinos taking up the game, one of few sports allowed during quarantine because it poses the least risk of spreading the disease.
Carl de la Pena, a 38-year-old entrepreneur, was among those lured into the game traditionally played by old men with deep pockets.
These days, however, more and more young men and women are drawn into the elitist sport.
Public golf courses are packed with new players showing up, some of them still figuring out the difference between pars and bogeys.
“It’s a challenging sport, you get to enjoy each time you play,” said De la Pena who founded Manila Golfers Union, a group mostly made up of beginners and high handicappers. “It’s not always the game but the bond you will have with your flight mates, playing and talking for hours on the fairway.”
De la Pena picked up the game last year after doing boxing for four years.
He was prevailed upon by a member of a bible group he was attending. He posted a video of himself hitting balls on the range and soon, friends began inviting him to play.
The former amateur boxer scored 127 at Philippine Navy and fell in love with the game.
“It’s hard to sell golf until you bring someone and play with that person. Golf will sell itself,” he said.
Since MGU was formed last 25 January through Facebook, the group has so far attracted more than 2,700 members. Last March, it created its Viber group which now has over 700 members.
De la Pena said he takes a lot of effort to screen potential members.
“I always filter. They have to answer some golf questions before I can approve them,” he said. “I add them in FB and see if they have one photo showing them playing golf.”
The group started holding small tournaments at Cattle Creek Golf and Country Club in Bulacan, Intramuros in Manila, and Navy in Taguig.
De la Pena said beginners like him have trouble with some oldtimers who don’t have patience watching them struggle on the fairways.
“Sometimes, they hit balls even when we are still on the greens. If we play as a group, like three or four flights, it gives us some confidence to play unhampered,” he said.
On 2 September, the MGU will hold its biggest tournament at the Navy course.
Dubbed the first MGU Cup, the one-day tournament has so far drawn 210 paid participants. Tee-off time is between 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Mode of play is System 36.
De la Pena’s entrepreneurial skills were in beast mode.
Among the 34 sponsors are Srixon J10 Sports, G&W Clubshares, conceptstore.com, Diginspire, Crep Protect, Fort & Tailler, and Modern Design Home Appliances.
Borrowing from the US Masters, the MGU Cup will also award a green jacket to the overall champion courtesy of Fort & Tailler.
“The fabric alone is one of a kind imported from Italy,” boasted De la Pena
De la Pena made the trophies himself that will be distributed to division winners.
The perpetual trophy created by Spacey Design will be unveiled during the tournament day. The name of the champion will be engraved on the trophy.
Also to be introduced is the group’s mascot, Mr. Mulligan.
A brand-new Getgo golf cart from a Subic-based company will be given away as a hole-in-one prize.
De la Pena disclosed that one MGU member has plans to provide the group with its future office and an indoor range in Shaw, Mandaluyong.
De la Pena is a man in a hurry.
“I am very ambitious about golf here in the Philippines. I know it’s doable. Working everything in my power to make it happen and every day is a step toward our goal to be the number one presence here,” he said.
On top of managing and organizing tournaments for the group, De la Pena also transformed MGU into a house of brands that boast Golf Events Ph, Manila International Junior Golfers Association, Philippine Amateur Golfers Association, and Envirocool-Split Type Airconditioning.
There are also plans to register MGU as a corporation.
Meanwhile, MGU is leaving no stones unturned to make its first major tournament an affair to remember.
“Part of the branding of MGU is that we want to be different in a good way. Serious golfers get frustrated. We give them something to be curious about and interest them in a way to make them happy,” De la Pena said.