Back in 1987, Ramon Fernandez was on his way from playing tennis at the Alabang Country Club when he chanced upon a friend hitting buckets at the nearby golf driving range.
Now tennis was his “second sport,” and a respite from his daily grind as Philippine Basketball Association’s superstar. And it was the first time Fernandez ever held a golf club.
“He asked me to try hitting with a driver,” he told Tribune Golf. With a hand-and-eye coordination of an elite athlete that he is, Fernandez hit the ball flush and thereby for the first time experienced the endorphin rush that only a ball in flight could give.
“Now driver has a big face you really can’t miss, right?” he asked. Not sure about that, but at that certain point, the PBA’s four-time Most Valuable Player ditched tennis right there and then, and began his love affair with golf.
Even during regular seasons in the pro league, Fernandez said he would sneak in for nine holes in the morning just to loosen the nerves.
At his peak, the now 69-year-old was 14-handicapper.
Over the weekend, Fernandez went back to the game along with more than a hundred friends from his playing days and classmates from even far back.
‘He asked me to try hitting with a driver.’
“Our goal is to help underprivileged athletes through the Ramon S. Fernandez Foundation,” said the basketball legend who had also served as Philippine Sports Commissioner for six years.
The likes of Jojo Lastimosa and Tonichi Yturri saw action in the fund-raiser — known as “El Presidente Charity Golf” — held at the spanking new Liloan Golf and Country Club in Cebu.
Liloan, with its newly completed 18-hole course and adjacent One Tectona Hotel, is owned by Fernandez’s former classmate Rafaelito Barino.
“It was only the second tournament played in the new Liloan,” said Fernandez of the course which was part of the 380-hectare Liloan Golf and Leisure Estates.
Barino, who is chair of the Duros Group of Companies, also graced the event in support of the cause.
Duros has been at the forefront of development in the northern part of Cebu, including Duros Land’s Lataban Estates, which promotes “privileged lifestyle set and redefines landscape of premium living.”
“There we would play and have a club that calls itself COTO or classmates of the owner,” said Fernandez jokingly.
For somebody who has contributed enough to Philippine sports, Fernandez has amassed a lot of goodwill from people who had resources.
Fortunately, the basketball legend is all too willing to share them.