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PAL interclub golf reaps major economic benefits.

THE Philippine Airlines Interclub Golf Tournament-or PAL Interclub-is acknowledged as the longest-running amateur team golf championship in the Philippines.

The 72nd edition held in Cebu this February and March 2019 assembled a record 101 teams for the Seniors Tournament, breaching the 100-mark for the first time, and 77 teams for the Men's Regular Tournament.

A total of 60 'International' teams-whose players hail from faraway countries-represented more than half of the teams at the Seniors Tournament, indicating the global lure of the PAL Interclub. The roster for both Seniors and Men's tournaments included teams and golfers from San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Riyadh, Guam, Sydney, Honolulu, New York, Hong Kong, Guam, Melbourne, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, London, Auckland, Haneda and Toronto.

ECONOMIC DIVIDENDS FOR THE COUNTRY

WITH its huge following, the PAL Interclub has helped to boost the local economy in the Philippine cities that serve as tournament venues-Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Clark. More than a thousand participants converge yearly in the designated host city, engaging in various tourism activities before, during and after the tournament.

This is what we now call 'sports tourism,' as local and foreign players and their families pour welcome revenues into the coffers of the local governments, the host communities and their respective tourism and entertainment sectors. Golfers, traveling with families and friends, help support the livelihood of Filipino workers and businesses at hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, resorts, golf courses, tour organizers, car rentals, souvenir stands, event venues, airports and more.

Cebu-based blogger Nimrod Quinones, who is currently general manager of Alta Vista Golf and Country Club, estimates that more than P36 million was pumped into the local economy during the recent 72nd PAL Interclub in Cebu. 'Sports is one of the best ways to bring people together, and when people gather, it means money will be spent,' said Quinones.

As Quinones explains:

'There are 101 teams of eight players each playing in the Seniors' division, starting from the three-day practice rounds onto the four-day tournament proper. Let us round it off to 800 players plus probably 400 more people traveling with them,' Quinones said. 'Let us not include the cost of their airline tickets, and just have a conservative estimate that each of the 1,200 people gathered for the event will spend P30,000 for the week. That alone is already P36 million spent at the golf courses, hotels, restaurants, department stores, on transportation, bars, medicine and many more.'

'The Men's tournament follows after [for another week after the Seniors competition]. Starting also with practice rounds and the tournament proper, you have another 800 players and another 400 companions with them for another 1,200 people,' he added.

Quinones's Alta Vista Golf and Country Club was one of the venues of the 72nd PAL Interclub, along with Club Filipino de Cebu, Mactan Island Golf Club and Cebu Country Club (home base for the team that clinched the Men's Regular tournament championship in March).

LIVELIHOOD BOOST

EYEING these economic benefits from sports tourism, local governments look forward to hosting the PAL Interclub.

'Whenever we're told the PAL Interclub is coming to Bacolod, it creates so much anticipation. Every time PAL comes here for the Interclub, it is fiesta time in Bacolod,' Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia said. Bacolod City was the triumphant venue for the 71st Interclub in 2018.

'The PAL Interclub always has a positive impact on Davao-from the food industry, to hotels, to caddies, everyone benefits from the arrival of golfers in Davao. Activities are abuzz not just at the golf courses but throughout the city. The city comes alive, much like a two-week festival,' Tomas Inigo, the new general manager of Rancho Palos Verdes Golf and Country Club in Davao, said.

The golfers are not the only contributors, according to Quinones.

'How about the hundreds of other people, who come to the venue for related activities, like media who cover the event, the tournament organizing staff, the caddies, waiters, staff, etc.,' Quinones said. 'Income earned by the locals [is] in turn spent at the grocery stores and other businesses, which allows the effect to trickle and benefit more people.'

Then there is the repeat market that promises future business opportunities.

'We fly in golfers from all around the world, and many of them fall in love with the Philippines and treasure their adventures in the PAL Interclub host city or province,' said PAL's Bong Velasquez, PAL Interclub executive committee chairman.

'They come back to visit, and would then bring their families and friends, eager to share the experience with their loved ones. We believe that the PAL Interclub is thus a special opportunity for the Philippines to win the approval of more and more tourist visitors, a long-term tourism driver that goes well beyond the world of golfing and competitive sport,' Velasquez added.

Contending with fully booked hotels and restaurants, as well as entertainment venues, some communities have their hands full in catering to PAL Interclub business and thus resort to importing workers from adjacent communities.

When the Interclub goes to Bacolod, caddies from nearby Iloilo hop on the ferry to ensure golfers get ably assisted at the courses. In Cebu, souvenir makers and hawkers from as far as Danao, Talisay, Naga or Carcar flock to Metro Cebu to offer their wares during the Interclub.

That's the magnitude of the economic ripple of the PAL Interclub to these host cities; one side of the Interclub legacy that local communities appreciate. It is thus no surprise that the Philippine Sport Tourism Awards nominated the PAL Interclub for the International Event of the Year, as well as Event Sponsorship of the Year awards in 2018, while awarding the 2018 Airline of the Year top honors to host carrier Philippine Airlines.

FOR PLAYERS: HONOR, GLORY AND FELLOWSHIP

From the start, the PAL Interclub has been about gathering golf aficionados from across the country and overseas for an annual reunion, where they could renew old friendships and gain new ones. Participants return year after year, not merely to win the championship-though that is a principal goal-but to bask in the warmth of fellowship and tradition.

The PAL Interclub's stature derives from two factors: the high level of competition-it is a showcase for the country's best golfing talent-and the strong team spirit and fellowship among its players.

Many golfers who reach the age of 55 after years of playing at the Men's Regular refuse to abandon their cherished annual reunion and choose to continue coming back as Seniors golfers.

Come back they do, through the last seven decades, not merely for the trophies and raffle prizes of PAL tickets and other goodies, but for the bragging rights and the unbeatable spotlight.

There are no grand prizes at the PAL Interclub. There is only the knowledge and honor that one has competed with some of the best amateur golfers in the land. This, plus the remarkable camaraderie among its players and its hallowed history of over 70 years, have imbued the PAL Interclub with a unique character and made it an enduring institution in the annals of Philippine golf.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Apr 22, 2019
Words:1312
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