Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Eagles in the hole: Ateneo’s golf team comes alive.

Ateneo's golf team: (L-R) Nikki Bruce (co-captain), Adrian Romero (Team manager), Raphael Diaz (captain), Enrique Diaz, Marc Salandanan, Alodia Ricafort, Hans Samaniego (student manager), and Andie Dy Buncio.

Eagles in the hole: Ateneo’s golf team comes alive.
by rick olivares

I met with the members of the Ateneo Golf Team three weeks ago at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo de Manila University campus. At that time, they booked a place in the finals of the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament against powerhouse Lyceum of the Philippines Cavite.

Behind the nervous smiles of an underdog squad there was hope and optimism. “We have to be at our very best if we even want a chance to beat the top college golf teams,” said team manager Adrian Romero.

There’s a story to Romero’s statement.

For years, more than a decade it seems, the Ateneo college golf team seemed to go through the motions. Although sanctioned by the school, the teams, according to current team captain Raphael Diaz, just played for the heck of it.

“Before it was a relaxed atmosphere,” related Diaz. “Kung gusto mo pumalo ngayon, sige. If you can make it to training, cool. If not, no biggie.”

Added Nikki Bruce, “When our schoolmates learned we were in the golf team, they’d say, ‘o, meron pala tayong team.’ They didn’t know maybe didn’t care. But how can they when the teams weren’t winning?”

However, the winds of change are blowing Ateneo’s way.

In 2015, the team made the finals of the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament for the first time since those early years of the new millennium.

“We wanted to be more dedicated, stricter in our approach and training,” threw in Bruce who was a freshman in 2015. “We didn’t just come here to get blown off and not have a care. We care and losing wasn’t fun.”

“Bakit kami team?” wondered Romero. “Kasi marami kami naglalaro rito sa Ateneo. and to represent the sport and the school, we decided to get serious about competing.”

With some help coming from the Ateneo Golf Foundation as well as from alumni like Lovell Gopez of Mizuno (who is also from Ateneo), and the recruitment of talented players, the attitude towards golf has greatly changed.

“We’re trying to replicate that 2015 finish or even better it,” succinctly put Diaz.

“We are also taking note of the players who aren’t getting scholarships abroad so we can recruit them”, added Nikki.

One of the Ateneo team’s new members is Marc Salandanan. If his name sounds familiar, it is because he won a UAAP Juniors basketball crown in Season 77 alongside Matt and Mike Nieto, Jolo Mendoza, and Gian Mamuyac. He currently plays on Team B but seems to have found his calling in golf. “I’d still love to make it to Team A and play in the UAAP but I love what I am doing now.”

Salandanan has incidentally be named as next year’s Ateneo golf team captain. It is an honor he is proud of. “I hope I am worthy of it and can lead the team and school to glory. Unlike in basketball where you just get your shots up, in golf no matter how many times you play a course, you can always screw things up. In the golf course the weather conditions also matter so it takes intense concentration.”

“I think we can achieve things because we love the sport,” added Andie Dy Buncio. “Our passion gets us going. We also try to help out one another through study groups and in the game. Plus, we get a lot of support from our parents.”

“Right now, it comes down to dedication and time management,” bared Diaz. “There’s the school work where there is no let up and there’s training. We can’t get away from school work and just can’t cut. But even in our team, we have a cut system. We have training Monday to Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo but only allow three cuts.”

And the paradigm shift has worked. Although right now, the Ateneo Golf team is in the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament finals against heavily-favored LPU. They are down 0-2 with LPU needing to win one more match to secure the title. If Ateneo wins the two matches this coming Sunday, January 28, they will forge a playoff on the same day.

“Right now, everything is a learning experience,” summed up Bruce. “If we can get this, wow. But don’t think we’re fine na we’ll just try to give LPU a fight. We want to win this. Andthis is what it is all about – developing a winning mentality.”

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