Private-public partnership, a key to success of RP athletes

Back in the day of fax machines and manual typewriters, I used to hang out at the office of sports director Joaquin “Coach Boy” Sarabia at the University of Mindanao-Bolton Campus.  Attorney Guillermo Iroy Jr. was then UM football coach, ‘nong Mario Babao coached the basketball squad, track and field stars Nixon Mas and Harrish Ratag sometimes would be in the office and a bunch of other athletes.  On a few occasions, head coach Atty.Manny Nitorreda will also be around for a chat.

From there, coach Boy would bring me to the office of UM executive vice-president Col. Saturnino “Ondo” Petalcorin, who was then president of the Private Schools Athletic Association-XI. And there I’ll be able to get information for my stories.

The good Colonel, one afternoon, told me about UM’s contribution to the City of Davao by loaning their golf players for the Philippine National Games.  Frankly, sports development, training and support are normally done by private schools whose players are all in the scholarship program. If there are national games organized by the DILG or the PSC inviting LGUs to participate, the city would seek the assistance of public and private school sports directors.  Where can we find the athletes to represent the city? Eh di sa mga eskwelahan.

That’s the reason why when Butch Ramirez was city sports chief, he directed me to closely work with local National Sports Association leaders and the school sports directors, specially members of the PRISAA-XI. For one, we cannot just tell those outstanding athletes to come and play for the city in the national games, and not worry because we’ll provide you the transportation, food allowance and uniforms. Dili ana ka dali. Mananghid pa tas mga otoridad sa eskwelahan, because they are the ones supporting these athletes whole-year-round and responsible for their recruitment in the first place. And if there’s no pananghid, you’ll get a mouthful rant from the likes of Col.Ondo Petalcorin. Lisod na, hehehe. And UM would not invite me to cover their games anymore, hahaha.

Anyway.  The reason I wrote about this is to remind ourselves that sports development is a private-public partnership, always. Truth is, the private sector plays a big, big role in the development of student-athletes.

That brings me to Yuka Saso, winner of the U.S. Women’s Open golf.  That historic win earned her $1 million U.S. and a spot to the major tournaments.

If you notice her golf cap, you’ll see the ICTSI logo, not the popular commercial sports brands that you usually see.  ICTSI stands for International Container Terminal Services Inc., a company owned by the Razons, that has been supporting golf tournaments in the Philippines. ICTSI for many years have been backing our golf stars with regular competitions, prizes at stake, to keep them going.  Yuka Saso also played for the Philippine Team in international tournaments and representing the country is with the support of the NSA, the PSC and the private sponsors.  Tinabangay ba.

So, many of our athletes will eventually become stars because of the foundation of support from their local coaches, sports clubs, sports associations, the national sports agency and sponsors like ICTSI.

I never had the opportunity to talk or interview Yuka, so I asked Ella Nagayo, one of Davao City’s outstanding golfer and granddaughter of one of my favorite City Councilors, Atty.Jess “Baby” Zozobrado and daughter of former City Councilor, Atty. Rachel, who is now serving as Labor Attache in POLO-Toronto.

If you are a subscriber of Edge Davao, you’ve read for sure the sports stories of our managing editor Neil Bravo about Ella.

So, I requested Ella to give me a statement after Yuka’s victory in the U.S. Open, to give you a glimpse of who Yuka is and why we should keep on supporting her.  So, here it is:

“I met Yuka in Melbourne, Australia, I used to live there. She went there 3 times I think and she played a couple of tournaments. When she was in Melbourne, we spent a lot of time together. I played golf with her a lot of times, I caddied her once and she also caddied me, and we went to several places together. Somehow we became close. She is an amazing and wonderful person. She has a pure soul. Yuka is a respectful, funny, very kind, and sweet person. On and off the golf course she is the same person. People may see her just as a good golf player, but she is more than that. If you get to know her more, you’re definitely gonna love her. She is fun to be with and she’s a go-to person.

Yuka is very talented and she’s always committed to what she does. She really loves golf. She is definitely a hard worker. She trains all the time like every single day from early in the morning to late at night. Yuka would do everything that it takes to become the best in the world. She is inspiring. Yuka inspired me to become better in golf and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. She helped me get up my feet. Yuka is actually my favorite golf player. I would definitely want to be like her someday. I believe she is going to encourage young golf players to become the best the way she did to me.


It is very hard to describe what she is like, she’s just beautiful inside and out. When I first met Yuka, I knew she was gonna make history in women’s golf. I knew she was gonna become the best golf player in the world; and I knew she was gonna make the Philippines shine and make us Filipinos proud. That’s how good Yuka is. Winning the 2021 U.S Women’s Open was only the beginning. We all must keep an eye on her.”

YouTube is a rich resource to see how Yuka played.  Boy oh boy, it wasn’t an easy win.

If you notice too, Yuka played wonderfully despite hitting the shots from the rough to the green.

That victory was her destiny.

And I hope and pray she’ll stay in the U.S. and play more in major tournaments.

Let’s get it on! (To borrow Neil Bravo’s favorite line).

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