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All blue on the greens

But no matter how difficult and even if we didn’t win, a day with friends playing golf is always a great day out

Golf can be a lonely sport. While we play alongside other players in our flight, we still tackle the course on our own. I am not saying it isn’t fun — it still always is. But once in a while, I wish we can change formats and make it a team sport.

It’s no wonder team formats like the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup draw so much emotion from the players. Aside from pride and playing for your country or continent, just the idea of having players in your team, rooting for you is a welcome departure from just playing for yourself and against everyone else.

In local amateur golf, there’s the Federation League where clubs battle each other. There’s also PAL Interclub and of course Fil-Am every December. But if you’re like me, who can’t play all the time and can’t leave home and work for extended periods for tournaments, team events are difficult to come by.

That is exactly why, once a year, I look forward to an alumni tournament where I can be part of a team and pair up with a friend to try and win points for our batch. Every November, the Ateneo Alumni Association and the Ateneo Golf Foundation organize the Ateneo Challenge Cup, a team tournament that pits batches of the same decade against each other.

Just last week, The Challenge Cup was held at the Orchard Golf and Country Club, the tournament’s home venue. I’ve been joining this tournament since the early 2000s. Back then, our batch didn’t meet the minimum 6 players.

My partner and I would be “adopted” by either a higher or lower batch. This year however, our batch had 26 players, the most of any batch in the tournament! It was such a joy to see friends from decades ago, all part of one team — Ateneo High School Batch 96.

When I started playing golf in the early 90s, out of 500 or so students in our batch, there were probably less than five golfers. By college in the mid 90s, the number increased a little to about 10 regular players.

With the golf boom brought about by Tiger Woods in the late 90s, more players began filling driving ranges, but only a few really took to the game and played regularly.

While Batch 96 didn’t win at the Challenge Cup this year, (we were back-to-back champs for 2021 and 2022), we had as much fun as we always do. Even from months back, our group chats have been abuzz, planning, recruiting, organizing. Half the fun was in the runup to the tournament.

From checking handicaps, to choosing partners, to picking uniform designs, it has been a blast. I guess boys will be boys and us Batch 96 boys, all in our mid-40s now, still get as rowdy as ever. That is part of the beauty of golf, we can enjoy it well into our 70s or even into our 80s for the lucky ones. The tournament had participants from as far back as Ateneo High School Batch 1963.

If my math is right, these fine gentlemen should be in their mid to late 70s. Looking at the scores from the 1960s batches, I still saw a few teams break 80, with one pair shooting a 75! These guys are shooting their ages and are having the best time doing it with their buddies from school from 60 years ago! How much fun is that?!

A huge thanks goes to Orchard Golf and Country Club for hosting this event every year. The courses (I played Palmer) are absolutely perfect, especially since the Challenge Cup was played two days after Orchard’s Founder’s Cup. I must say, Palmer showed its teeth last week.

The course played as long as I’ve ever played it. With the wind blowing, the usually manageable long holes in Palmer were plain tough. After solid drives, my partner and I were still hitting 5 and 6 irons into most par 4s and even had to take hybrids and woods out on a couple of really long par 4s.

But no matter how difficult and even if we didn’t win, a day with friends playing golf is always a great day out. Congratulations are in order for Batch HS 1997 for clinching this year’s 90s decade title and to Batch 1991 for being the Overall Champions of Ateneo Challenge Cup 2023!

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