The Junior Golfers League (TJGL) president Chona dela Paz sees the emergence of Filipino world champions five to 10 years from now because of the effective grassroots program they started in 2001.
“I feel very positive concerning our future in golf. Why? Because we have so many young talented golfers here in this country,” Dela Paz told The Manila Times at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite.
“Most of our regular players start at the age of 11 to 12 and most of them are joining the amateur. Their standing is also not far compared with the best amateur players that’s why I feel so positive about golf here in our country.”
Dela Paz said that two junior golfers – Daniella Uy and Sean Granada – won in international competitions recently, proof of Filipinos’ great potential in the sport.
“Recently, we had a junior world division champion Daniella Uy who won the 15 to 18-year-old division title, and then we have right now Sean Granada who won the first runner up in the US Kids World Golf Championship recently.”
“I’m very positive that we’re going to excel because there are many golfers as young as seven-year-old, whose handicap is as high at five even par and under.”
But Dela Paz admitted that sustaining a grassroots program for an expensive sport such as golf is quite a challenge.
“Sometimes we are looking for sponsors to support us because we have 38 scholars, including caddies, professionals and their sons and daughters. We are supporting them here in The Junior Golfers League and they are not paying for anything,” said Dela Paz.
She explained that private companies could not directly give monetary support or sponsor junior players because of their amateur status unlike in professional players.
Dela Paz said that it is mainly a labor of love and sometimes they have to shell out money from their own pockets to sustain the needs of the players.
“We also contribute funds to international campaigners who are less fortunate. We’re also thankful to Oakley for supporting us for five years and we also have our fundraising to help them pay their tournament fee and to those who compete abroad.”
“In our own little way, we are able to help them and we’re hoping there will be more Oakley which can support junior golf.”
A growing family
Since 2001, TJGL has produced a lot of world-class junior golfers among them Dottie Ardina, Cyna Rodriguez and Regan De Guzman, who are now competing in professional leagues abroad like the Ladies Professional Golfers Association.
“We’re just like a small family – before with eight members in 2001 more of developmental – but now we have 160 members nationwide. We multiplied and I believe we’re still growing now,” said Dela Paz.
She explained that it is not hard to become a member of TJGL as long as the player has already undergone training under a professional and has already a grasp of the fundamentals of the sport.
“We’re the one who will develop their talent. Our vision is to develop more talented golfers in the country in both genders as young as three years old,” said Dela Paz, noting that the TJGL is sanctioned by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines.
“We conduct tournaments in 10-and-under. On their (Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines) part, they conduct tournaments on 11 to 18-and-under. They’re the one who send junior qualifiers. All qualifiers in the IMG and the US Kids also came from The Junior Golfers League.”
The majority of TJGL members are from Metro Manila and southern Luzon provinces among them Cavite, Laguna and Batangas.
Dela Paz said two years ago, they’ve brought TJGL to some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao but not in 2016 because of limited budget. But this year, they are planning to bring TJGL in the said areas to discover new talents.