In wake of typhoon, Asian Tour plans help

The Manila Masters golf tournament will play on in the Philippines, despite nearby destruction from a typhoon, in an effort to raise funds to aid storm victims.

As hard as it is to fathom the devastation caused by last week’s typhoon to the central Philippines, it’s even more incredible to think that a professional golf tournament is about to commence in that ravaged country.

But, indeed, the Manila Masters will play on.

“Filipinos have very strong heart,” said that country’s most decorated player, 53-year-old Frankie Minoza. “We are used to typhoons hitting our country, but it was unusual this year. We’ll get over this as we are survivors and we help each other.”

In a statement, Mike Kerr, the Asian Tour's chief executive officer, cited the long history of supporting golf in the Philippines. “We feel for the people affected by this unfortunate tragedy and hope that through the staging of this tournament and through our support of aid and relief programs, we will be able to help in whatever way possible.”

Tacloban, the city on Leyte island that took the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) and was basically leveled, is some 360 miles southeast of Manila. Think San Francisco to Los Angeles, roughly, so the effects are vastly different in the two cities. But, still, in relative terms the golf tournament will be played not far from where nearly 1,800 have been confirmed dead, an estimated half-million are homeless and where massive relief efforts are underway.

But those involved say the decision to play has merit.

“It was unfortunate and it’s really bad with what has happened in Tacloban, but we Filipinos are strong and we’ll get through this,” said Gerald Rosales, a Filipino who is entered in the Manila Masters.

Minoza said he would love to win at the Resorts World Manila and contribute a sizable portion to the typhoon victims and tournament officials insisted this was in line with the thinking behind going through with the event.

“They want to use the opportunity to try to raise some funds for the victims,” said Asian Tour media director Chuah Choo Chiang, speaking on behalf of the tournament sponsors. “They’re talking to various people, and they hope to come up with some firm plans of what they want to do.”

It’s no surprise to find Daniel Chopra in the field. He was “global golf” before global golf became in vogue, as eclectic a world traveler as you’ll find. Born in Sweden and raised for a good portion of his youth in India, Chopra earned first professional victory in Malaysia in 1993, and he has won twice on the Asian Tour.

At 39, he has played the majority of his golf in the past 10 years in the United States, but he has not lost his sense of adventure. So when his low priority ranking (41st) coming out of the Web.com Tour Finals left him without chances to play this fall, Chopra knew what to do. He packed his bags, took his passport and headed for last week’s Indian Open.

Chopra finished 24th, which was positive stuff, but the better news was that he had secured a spot into this week’s PGA Tour tournament in Mayakoba, Mexico. Yet Chopra surveyed his options and decided to turn that down; instead, he would go through with a commitment to play in the Manila Masters.

“I had committed to this event awhile back as I didn't think I had a chance to get into Mexico," Chopra said via email. "So even though I did get in at the last minute, I wasn't going to go back on my commitment here.

“It wouldn't have been fair to the event, and especially now with the tragedy that's happened. At a time like this if we as golfers can do anything to help, we should. There are a bunch of fund-raising and charity initiatives in place this week. If I can be a part of them and help, then I am happy to do so.”

As much as he has traveled and as much as he has seen, Chopra said this was unlike anything he has witnessed.

“Everyone in Manila is still in a bit of shock and trying to grasp the magnitude of the situation,” he said. “Even when I arrived (Tuesday) morning, there were aid planes landing and loading supplies to ferry to the affected areas. It is all a bit surreal. We can only hope that the situation gets better.”

Sitting a world away in our luxury and comfort, we struggle to put our arms around the devastation. Certainly, some will consider a pro golf tournament to be a trivial matter and hardly worth pursuing in the face of such human suffering. But typhoons are a fact of life in that country, and veteran Angelo Que and 19-year-old Miguel Tabuena said this week’s Manila Masters and next week’s World Cup in Australia, where they will represent the Philippines, are important.

“Unfortunately, the typhoon has to happen, but we’re all good to help. I think it’s a good thing that all players get together and help out,” said Que, 34, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour.

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