There was no answer and she was shaking in tears. My father’s instinct told me that the answer was “no” because by then we have already saw signs of her getting burnout in golf. Being spoiled as our then youngest child, she would throw her golf clubs and fool around after a bad shot, virtually sabotaging her good game. In tournaments, she would start leading the pack but lose in the end because of her tantrums and immaturity.
In short, Ashia – who was then turning 8 – had all the skills to win but lacked the maturity and focus required of golf. Although she plays well, she is easily distracted by frogs, butterflies, birds and “tampuhans” with fellow players during tournaments, which causes her to lose her lead scores. What was worrying was she easily seems to crack under intense pressure during the game.
What is a parent to do? Can we just sacrifice and throw away a rare talent Ashia has nurtured from two years old? Can we just turn back on the pride and joy of having Ashia represent and bring honor to the country as one of its representatives in the junior golf world tournaments abroad? Can we just throw away something that has given Ashia her character – even early media exposure – to counter-balance the success of her academically-gifted elder sister Arizza?
And then there is the question of hundred of thousands already spent in expensive golf trainings, imported golf sets and equipment bought through the years; and hard-earned money lost in almost weekly tournaments all over the country and yearly championships in the US -- all done to give Ashia a good future and to prevent her from possibly growing insecured or bitter from being unable to cope up with the impressive academic achievements of elder sister and idol Arizza. Will all these now be going down the drain?
These questions became harder to answer because by then Ashia had just won and earned slots to again represent the country in the in the 2009 Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in Colina Golf Park Course in San Diego, California; and the US Kids World Championship and the US Teens Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina (pls read more about Ashia’s love for golf at this link http://www.krislibrary.com/1/post/2012/04/ashia-marie-started-playing-golf-at-2-years-old-before-learning-to-talk.html ).
In the end, we decided that it was best to follow Ashia’s heart. With a heavy heart, we gave up Ashia’s slots in Callaway and the US Kids junior world golf tournaments in the US to kids who got second place and went on to help see what other talents and skills Ashia can pursue.
It was one of the most single heart-breaking decisions for me as a parent and I too stopped playing golf. For some time, I would not even dare hold my golf clubs and play golf with public relations clients. The mini-pitching and putting green we have set up for her in our weekend house in San Mateo, Rizal was left unused. This was the putting green I myself helped build with my bare hands, sweat and hard physical work -- all for Ashia.
Although me and Ashia occasionally played golf, we left Ashia to pursue other interests like swimming, baseball, soccer and even painting. She also turned serious in academics and aspired to enter Philippine Science High School like her eldest sister did. This time, we simply concentrated in making Ashia feel that we are supportive of her new chosen fields of interest. This time, we made her feel that we love her for the kid that she is, not a talented golfer with an international record.
But in February, Ashia suddenly told her mom Ann that she wanted to play serious golf once more. She said the feeling came back to her after looking at the greens at the Veterans Golf and Country Club during a trip to the nearby Trinoma Mall.
Although ecstatic about the news, we again confronted her with this same question on whether she was serious about a game that requires her to practice from three to four hours almost daily, walked kilometers under the intense heat of the sun and to focus hard on her game. We also told her that we cannot allow her to fool around in a game that is quite expensive to maintain. This time she positively answered: “Yes, daddy and mommy. I will be more committed this time.”
And so, we again had her undergo training and to participate in major golf tournaments. Fortunately, this time, we noticed her having the maturity in the game; and gone are the tantrums, the fooling around; and she now seems to focus in enjoying the game more.
On our part, we also assured her that we are here behind and supportive of her win or lose. We now tell her winning is not as important as the effort and sacrifices she puts into winning. We have to admit that we too were part of the problem as we focused more on winning in the past rather than to simply let her enjoy the game. In one of our arguments following series of bag games, Ashia cried out with tears in her eyes: "Daddy, I'm just a kid!" How those words tore my heart into hundreds of pieces! Mea culpa.
For now, her game appears to look good as she managed to win the ICTSI-BCC Junior Open Championship in Baguio where she battled Koreans who were more familiar with the challenging green of the Baguio Country Club golf course in her first time to play there during the April 2-3 tournament.
Right now she is practicing hard for the Callaway Junior World Golf Qualifying (April 16-19); the Faldo Series Asia Qualifying (April 24-26); and the US Kids Qualifying (May 7-9). Winners in these tournaments will earn limited coveted slots to represent the country – at their parent’s expense – in tournaments in the US and in Asia.
However, this time, we have no high expectations from Ashia because we know two months of practice cannot measure up with the years of intense practice and tournament play by her junior golfer competitors who never stopped playing and who are on the top of their playing forms. Ashia's participation in the qualifying tournaments this year would just be a preparation period and practice rounds to put her in top form when she again plays for the Callaway, US Kids Golf; Faldo Series; and other major tournaments in 2013.
This time, we are no longer focused on winning because in our minds, Ashia is already a winner by simply growing up and maturing in her age. It could be that the values of sacrifice and focus she had learned in golf had finally sunk into her consciousness because even her academic standings have improved along with her playing. It could also be her maturity came from the realization that she is no longer our “little baby” as she now has brother Arno who occupies that role. It could also be that former "pushy" dad is no longer egging her to play golf and she is now doing it on her own free will.
Whatever it is that finally brought maturity to Ashia, we are only too happy with the thought that this time, Ashia has not only grown up into a better golfer but a better person and poised to win her biggest game – the game of living and succeeding in life!
For us, golf no longer serves as the end but only a means to winning in life -- golf or no golf. At the end of the day, what matters is that sports will help build Ashia's character by teaching her to be more determined and resilient. Champion or not, what's important is that she learns to pick herself up from defeats and work harder. If golf helps her learn that, then she is already a winner in life!