Manny V. Pangilinan may have never hit a golf shot in his life.
People close to the business tycoon – who all love and enjoy the game that they pray that no phone calls from MVP comes while they're on the fairways – say that Pangilinan just doesn’t have the time to spend playing the crazy game.
It takes a lot from the time he needs to spend at the office running his various businesses.
And being so enamored with basketball, finding the name of Pangilinan in the local golf scene is, indeed, wishful thinking a few years back.
Basketball has been Pangilinan’s first love.
There’s no questioning that.
He has three PBA teams, bankrolls two very successful collegiate cage programs in Ateneo in the UAAP and San Beda in the NCAA and is the main backer of the Gilas Pilipinas team that has taken the Asian region by storm.
What he puts in these teams in terms of monetary support is no joke and it would run to the billions of pesos once added up.
Pangilinan gets practically nothing in return as far as personal gain is concerned. Sure, he’d be very damn proud if Ateneo regains the UAAP crown next season and upsets highly-fancied La Salle.
He feels the same every time the Red Lions rule the NCAA, and with every championship that TNT KaTropa bags in the PBA.
He’s also wishing that Meralco and NLEX find their place under the PBA sun soon enough. So he can toast them as well.
But giving his support to other sports, golf in particular, is not aimed at making only the alumni of his alma maters happy, or the fans of TNT, Meralco and NLEX jubilant after a successful PBA campaign.
Pangilinan wants this country to feel what it did when the Gilas Five finally shocked South Korea in the Final Four of the Fiba Asia Championship held at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay in 2013 to qualify back to the World Cup in Spain after a four-decade absence.
Pangilinan wants this country be elated much in the same way when Jayson Castro and naturalized center Andray Blatche led the Filipinos in chopping down hulking defending champion Iran to size in the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament in Changsha, China in 2015.
Pangilinan wants this entire country to rally behind an individual like it does every time Manny Pacquiao fights.
But for an Olympic gold, in a sport where the lower scores win and something that is, like to Pangilinan, pretty alien to the entire country.
Golf returned to the Olympics after more than a century’s absence, with Miguel Tabuena playing through an injured shoulder just to make sure that the Philippines was represented well in Rio de Janeiro where some of the world’s best competed despite the looming Zika Virus threat.
The MVP Sports Foundation started its support for golf five years ago, when it made Jobim Carlos, then the country’s top amateur, as its first scholar in the United States with the University of San Francisco.
The vision was to develop Carlos good enough for him to qualify for the Olympics, but the former national champion simply didn’t have the time to earn world ranking points as a pro to be able to make it to the main draw.
“It’s athletes like that who we want to support,” Al Panlilio, the former president of the MVP Sports Foundation who approved of Carlos’ scholarship, said recently.
“We want to give the Filipino athlete the chance to compete globally, play against the best in the world," he said.
“We believe that only the exposure against world-class talent can the Filipino athlete be world-class,” Panlilio, who sits in the board of the governing National Golf Association of the Philippines and is also an avid golfer, added.
Panlilio bared that the MVPSF gives out at least P5 million annually to the NGAP to run its grassroots programs and other amateur events, tournaments that will help the Filipino golfer develop a lot faster and become better international players.
“We are fully supportive of the NGAP because golf is now an Olympic sport,” Panlilio went on.
Golf doesn’t necessarily give the bigger race an advantage, unlike in basketball, volleyball and most contact sports.
Tabuena, who is not the biggest, stockiest man in the world, is a living testament to that and is, in fact, one of the hottest golfers in the region.
“Hopefully, with the experience he (Tabuena) got in Rio, he can perform better next time,” Panlilio said.
There’s also one other thing that Panlilio and the MVP Group likes about golf that has, more often that not, decided outcomes of gold medal matches in other sports: “There are no referees in golf, and we like that,” Panlilio said with a smile.
The MVPSF’s support for golf – and all the other sports that it is involved in for that matter – is here for the long haul.
“The NGAP is part of the POC and there is no question that we will be supporting further this sport that we have identified (as a potential Olympic gold medal-winning sport for the Philippines),” Panlilio said.
From the Manila North Tollways, Philex Mining, PLDT/Smart, Meralco, Maynilad, TV5, Meralco Power Gen and so many other ventures that MVP is into, everything he touches, it seems, turns into gold.
Rupert Zaragosa – 9th Tee, 98th Philippine Open
There’s no doubt that Pangilinan is a winner anywhere he goes.
Manny V. Pangilinan may have never hit a golf shot in his life, but his genuine love for Philippine sports continues to provide this country that solid shot at winning its first Olympic gold medal.
And it may yet come from the sport the business tycoon is totally alien to.