Meet Roger P Manalo, Victor Borja, Hiro Kubo and Daryl Poe. They hail from Guam, the island in the western Pacific, known for its idyllic setting and as a staging post for the American military.
Manalo, was born in the Philippines but migrated to Hawaii and Guam where he and four brothers set up a residential and commercial construction company.
He had turned pro golfer and tried to qualify for the Asian Tour in 2004, but failed and made it instead to the Philippine PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) and held a Tour card for eight years.
But doing construction business at the same time got in the way of golf and he also had four children by then. He quit without regret as golf had helped him in his business. “I met a lot of good people, business people and there was camaraderie that I enjoyed.
Playing at Saujana got him acquainted with youngsters from India, the US and Singapore on his flight. “And now the best part is I don’t worry if I win or not.” He shot a 91 on Day One, 83 on Day Two causing him to miss the cut. “It was too hot for me.” Weather, that is.
He’ll be back to Saujana next year, barring the unexpected.
Victor Borja, 66, playing to a 4.2 handicap, was also a pro for two years and remembers playing with Malaysia’s M Ramayah in Japan in 1986. “I wasn’t making money, so I went back to my government job and retired as deputy director of social services. I am now serving as a member of Guam’s Golf Federation, helping in the junior programme.”
Life has become most agreeable as his day now is mostly about making breakfast for the family when it is his turn, going to the driving range, meeting his friends, socialising and returning home for lunch and a nap. Golf development is his pet activity and keeps him in the game’s loop.
Here for the competition, he shot 89 and 85, also missing the cut. “We don’t walk in Guam, so it was tough. I had cramps several times, but it’s good training.” He emerged physically intact in the end.
One of his goals is to meet members of the Asia-Pacific Golf Federation and “hopefully attract investors to develop courses on the island”.
He wasn’t sure of showing up next year because he was merely making the numbers this time, as youngsters from Guam were busy with their school exams.
To be frank, he said he was more into social work and was happier doing that.
Hiro Kubo’s first love is flying and he’s a Boeing 737 captain with the United Airlines, “world famous for all the wrong reasons”. He was referring to the forceful eviction of a passenger from a United flight in America and which made headlines.
Based in Guam, this 52-year-old flies mostly to Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Sometimes to Honolulu.
A Japanese by birth, he finished college before he moved over to America and became a pilot.
He started playing golf when he was 25. For him, hitting the “sweet spot” in shot-making, and having a good score, was all it took to draw him to the game.
He goes to Japan sometimes to play in amateur tournaments. “But it’s hard playing against young players,” he admitted.
But at Saujana he was encouraged as he beat a “lot of young guys”, shooting 82 and 86, still missing the cut, though. It was his first time in Malaysia. “Next time I come, it should be easier as I know where to shoot.” Fighting words.
Daryl Poe retired from the US Air Force in 2011 after 23 years in the health service. He took residency in Guam in 2008.
He had grown up in Florida where there’s plenty of golf, starting as a 10-year-old and played until he was 21 and a near-scratch player. He let on that he was a lone Black guy playing and it gave him the impetus to play well so he could “whup everybody”.
On entering the air force, he continued playing armed forces golf as a Top-5 member of its All-Europe team for a few more years.
These days, he lives his dream watching all the top pros on television. Amazingly, he never had any golf lessons. “I am very unorthodox, get the job done, but not to the next level. I’m compared to Jim Furyk … I’m all over the place.”
He remembers reading about Tiger Woods as an eight-year-old and thinking “this kid is going to be good, real good”.
He was looking forward to his next birthday as he was going to be 50. And joking, he said he was going to be able to play on the Senior Tour.
At Saujana he shot 80 and 75 and came away second-best nett on Day Two. His final round was an 83, which placed him 41st on the leaderboard, out of the 67 who made the cut.
He’ll be back next year as “I’ve got a challenge right now. I like this course”.