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Even In Golf, Marcos Was A Cheat

A large part about the issue whether to bury the late ousted dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani revolves around the idea that Marcos' heroism was never really authentic.  That the medals he claims to have earned were merely the output of his own machinations.

Golfers are split on this issue.  Some say, "Let it be.  Bury him at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.  What's passed is past".  Others who staunchly fought against the dictatorship through street rallies in the 1980s and the EDSA revolution say, "No way!  Marcos was never a hero and should just be buried with his mother".

Between the two differences of opinion among golfers, all may be unified when the issue is not trained on the war medals but on Marcos' golf score.  Integrity is definitely imperative in the game of gentlemen.

One only has to look back to 1986 when it is remembered that the late Dindo Gonzalez, an advertising pioneer, champion golfer, a real war hero of the resistance, and columnist of "Golfmate" fame, supplied Reuters a copy of Marcos' hand-written note on stationary labeled "Office of the President, Republic of the Philippines".  In the note, Marcos accused Gonzalez of spreading "crude lies about my golf" and told him to improve his grammar.

This was because the late Dindo Gonzalez, in writing Golfmate for the Business Day newspaper, had accused Marcos of signing false golf scores to lower his handicap.

Gonzalez, an avid golfer who played championship golf for more than 60 years and promoted it all his life, and often played with Marcos before and after he became president, said that the deposed leader's caddies and bodyguards frequently kicked the ball into the fairway from the rough and that he signed cards with false scores.

He said that on Dec. 3, 1978, Marcos played with four others at the exclusive Manila Golf and Country Club and returned a card of five under par 30 on the front nine, a score only international professionals can hope to achieve.

After receipt of the note, Gonzalez fired back through his column, "You (Marcos) should have turned pro there and then."

Gonzalez added: "His reputation as a low handicap player started circulating around the world when he became president."

"After his first putt and (if) the ball was, say, a club length away from the hole, he was given the putt since he was the president."

Gonzalez said Marcos' caddies lowered the president's score with his tacit approval.  He also told Reuters that, during games at the presidential palace golf course, he found to his astonishment that balls hit into the rough by Marcos were always found lying on a nice lie and were sometimes kicked by bodyguards toward the green.  "with so many of his bodyguards trailing, he always seemed to get a good lie and seldom, if at all, found himself in a rough," Gonzalez wrote. The bodyguards "kept the ball not only in play, but, I suspect, also kicked it nearer the hole after a shot. Thus, Marcos' handicap dropped from 14 to 10."

Marcos said in his letter: "You cannot have said that I cheat in golf and do not pay my 'indebtedness'. But if you did write it at least improve the grammar if you cannot improve the style."

Marcos was obviously irate because Gonzalez punctured the myth that Marcos, long an avid player, was the Chief Executive with the lowest handicap earning him an informal title as the title world's best golfing president.  Such comments would have gotten him shot or jailed if Marcos were still in power.

In analyzing Marcos' game, "His game was the mediocre, run-of-the-mill type that carried a handicap of around 18 strokes," wrote Gonzalez, who said he knew Marcos as "Ferdie" when he first played with him in the early 1950s. He said he played with Marcos frequently until a couple of years after Marcos was first elected president in 1965, but that Marcos "could not have improved much since his form was not according to the known fundamentals."

The late Gonzalez was asked in a 1986 interview, if Marcos actually would cheat at this genteel sport of the Philippine country club set?

"Yes!" was the emphatic reply.

"When Marcos played golf, he showed his character," Gonzalez said. He used his caddies, aides and bodyguards to do the dirty work, he added. "You could never pin anything on him personally." 

One of the character traits Gonzalez said he noticed in Marcos -- also noted by politicians who knew him well -- was an ability to look a person straight in the eye and tell him something that both knew to be untrue. Gonzalez said he first noticed that ability when Marcos told him his golf scores.

Golfing with "Ferdie" had its drawbacks, especially because Gonzalez used to beat Marcos consistently.  "It stopped being pleasant when he became president," the late Gonzalez said of his golf outings with Marcos and friends. "He didn't feel good when he lost. He would say, 'Well, you won this time, but wait till next time. I'll get you.'

"We used to tremble when he said that," Gonzalez said, "because we were never quite sure what he meant."

As such, the deposed president thus is not only accused of falsifying his World War II record, looting his country's economy, manipulating elections, and abusing human rights during the imposition of Martial Law, but a much graver sin as cheating at golf.

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