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Philippine Open

Philippine Open

It’s reckoned golf was introduced to the Philippines by British employees working on the Manila railway system in the 1880s, with a very rudimentary course built among the paddy fields to the south of Intramuros, close to the centre of the capital.

By the turn of the century, a 9-hole course was in play which led to the formation of Manila Golf Club in Caloocan, to the north of Manila, and it’s here that the first twenty editions of the Philippine Open were played, up until 1934.

In 1949, a new site was acquired in Makati and this became the club’s new home, merging with Country Club Development Inc. a decade later to form the Manila Golf & Country Club, which means the course at the club’s original location no longer exists.

An American named J.R.H (“Bob”) Mason won the inaugural championship in 1913 and fourteen of the first sixteen competitions were claimed by American golfers (Mason winning five in total), with the other two events, in 1919 and 1920, won by a Scottish railway engineer named Ian Collier Trotter MacGregor.

All of these Philippine Open champions were expat amateur players and it wasn’t until 1929, when a local caddy named Larry Montes was allowed entry into the competition that the natural order in national golfing circles was blown away for ever as a result of him winning the first prize as a raw 16-year-old.

Montes had caddied for the American military and naval officers, learning the game by himself without the benefit of a coach, so he had no real idea about the scientific reasoning behind the execution of the golf swing. In essence, he was a self-taught, natural player.

During the awards ceremony after his victory, Montes was asked to leave the clubhouse because caddies were not permitted to enter the premises. This prompted one of the members, American Bill Shaw, to quit and form his own club the following year and his new Wack Wack Golf & Country Club would have its doors open to all Filipino players, avoiding any sort of racial discrimination.

The tournament was discontinued for two years in 1930 and when it returned in 1932, Montes came out on top for a second time. It would be held on only another two occasions before moving to Santa Barbara Country Club (now known as Iloilo Golf & Country Club) for twenty-one editions of the Open, up until 1959.

It was on this layout – now regarded as the oldest surviving course in the Philippines since it was established in 1907 – that Larry Montes would win another ten Open championships. His last success came in 1954, aged 42, when he effectively passed the national baton on to Celestino Tugat, who captured six Open competitions between 1949 and 1962.

The tournament moved again to a long-term residency at Wack Wack in 1960 and it was played there for twenty-four of the following twenty-nine years. Ben Arda, who went on to represent the Philippines at sixteen World Cups, lifted the Open trophy three times at Wack Wack (in 1961, 1963 and 1979) and he also won the national Opens in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Half a dozen different venues staged the event during the 1990s and it was during this period that Rob Whitlock became the first Australian (at Manila Southwoods in 1996) since Peter Thomson to have his name etched on the trophy.

Wack Wack came into favour again in the new millennium, hosting eight of the Opens played up until 2014. Antipodean professionals Scott Strange (in 2006) and Marcus Both (in 2014) won two of these events, with Singapore professional Mardan Mamat leading the way in 2012 with an 8-under par, five-shot margin of victory over his nearest opponent.

In 2017, the tournament was held at the Country Club for the first time and Englishman Steve Lewton provided another first at the end of play, becoming the first British winner of the Philippine Open in 97 years with a 1-under par aggregate score of 287.

You’ll not find the original course at Manila Golf Club listed below as it no longer exists. The following courses are also missing as they don’t have a current ranking position in our Philippine chart: Apo Golf & Country Club, Camp John Hay Golf Club, Iloilo Golf & Country Club, Puerto Azul Golf & Country Club, Valley Golf & Country Club and Villamor Air Base Golf Course.

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01
Country Club - Philippines

Country Club - Philippines

Santa Rosa, Calabarzon

02
Luisita

Luisita

Tarlac City, Central Luzon

03
Manila Southwoods (Masters)

Manila Southwoods (Masters)

Carmona, Calabarzon

04
Mount Malarayat (Mt. Makulot & Mt. Lobo)

Mount Malarayat (Mt. Makulot & Mt. Lobo)

Lipa, Calabarzon

05
Riviera (Langer)

Riviera (Langer)

Silang, Calabarzon

06

Wack Wack (East)

Manila, Metro Manila

Philippine Open Top 100 Leaderboard

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