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From pulot boy to golf champion

All Edison Tabalin ever wanted was to become a golfer.

So last March, the 16-year-old packed his bags and left his hometown in Davao City to try his luck in the Big City.

“He told me he wanted to play golf seriously,” said Ronnie Casas, his uncle who now manages the driving range at Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal. “He did not want to return to Davao.”

Seven months later, Edison won the premier boys’ 15-18 age-group division in the Singha Thailand Junior World Championship in Hua Hin, Thailand.

His rise is short of phenomenal for the former pulot boy at the Apo Golf and Country Club.

“I knew he has the talent,” said Casas, a former touring pro himself. “He hits it long and has a good swing.”

Casas said he did not want to change Edison’s swing.

“All I did was lecture him about golf etiquette and things he should do to become a good golfer,” he said. “I did not want him to become a mechanical golfer.”

Casas said they are grateful to Eastridge for allowing Edison and other junior golfers free access to its golf course after 4 p.m.

On many occasions, Casas would encourage Edison to play with club members if the opportunity arises.

“Edison is a shy boy. He needs to learn how to socialize,” Casas said in the vernacular.

As a result, Edison has endeared himself to club members who sometimes give him money for food.

The roly-poly kid loves food.

“Five cups of rice is easy,” said Casas who nevertheless wanted Edison to cut his meal intake and start jogging.

Edison, the youngest son of an Apo caddie, stands five foot four and weighs… well, he stopped finding out. His waistline is 40 and wears size 11 wide shoes.

Casas said Edison’s forays into the tournament scene would have not been possible without the support of Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines president Oliver Gan and his wife, the former Han Gaisano.

“The Gan couple always spends Christmas in Davao and would organize tournaments for the kids,” Casas said. “They grew fond of Edison and supported him since he was 11.”

The Gans have been bankrolling Edison’s tournament appearances, including the Luisita qualifier for the Thailand event last September.

Casas disclosed that Edison nearly missed the Luisita event.

“It turned out that Edison was leaving for Davao for the Eaglemasters tournament that was held close to the Luisita tournament,” he said.

Casas reminded Edison of the importance of the Luisita event to his career.

Edison rebooked his Davao ticket and edged Jacob Cajita in a playoff at Luisita earning a trip to Thailand. He went on to play in Davao, helping SMNI win the team title.

He admitted to getting nervous about playing on foreign soil for the first time.

If he was jittery, it did not show in the opening nine holes as Edison made only one bogey.

Stepping on the 10th tee, however, Edison was shocked when blood started to spill from his nostrils. He was afraid and confused as he made six bogeys at the back for a 79.

The next day, Edison shot a 76 that left him 10 shots off the pace.

If there’s one lesson that Edison learned from Casas, it’s about not giving up.

“One day, I asked Edison why is he not making a move. He told me he wants to preserve his score,” Casas narrated. “I castigated him and told him that if he wants to become a champion, he should learn how to take risks especially when he’s down.”

On moving day, Edison shot a 70 despite two late bogeys and climbed to third place, just two shots behind Cajita and Malaysian Hussein Syed.

The final round turned out to be a battle for survival.

Edison won it through sheer grit and determination, limiting his bogeys while making back-to-back birdies coming in to seal the deal.

It was Edison’s biggest victory in his budding career.

Time will tell if he will join the revered names that came out of Davao’s golf factory like his uncle Cassius Casas, Antonio Lascuna, Jhonnel Ababa, Jay Bayron and Marvin Dumandan, among others.

Edison got his first taste of what pro tournaments would look like when he was invited to play in the ICTSI Riviera Championship.

Casas recalled dropping him at Riviera and receiving an SOS call from Edison a few hours later.

“He told me that he would not be allowed to play wearing short pants because it was a pro tournament,” Casas chuckled.

So the loving uncle gathered four of his long pants and sent them through Grab.

“The problem was of the four I sent, only one fit,” Casas recalled. “So he used it for four days.”

Playing against the pros, Edison made the cut, shooting 76-78-86-80.

His Thailand win served as an eye-opener for the country’s golf program looking to widen its pool of talent.

Forest Hills general manager Raymond Bunquin said Edison has characteristics that golfers from Apo golf breeds — a complete game.

“Raw but natural and has the Casas instinct in his blood. He will get better as he progresses… a ton of talent but needs guidance in conditioning and nutrition as early as now,” said Bunquin who has tapped Edison to play for Forest Hills in the Fil-Am Invitational in Baguio City.

Forest Hills has opened its doors to Edison and selected junior golfers as its contribution to the development program.

As part of his reward, Edison has been invited to watch golf legend Frankie Minoza compete in a senior tournament in Thailand this month.

If things fall into place, Casas said he would like Edison to play in the Junior World in San Diego, California.

“We will prepare for that. I made it clear to Edison how important is our goal,” he said.

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