Late Wabol’s vision: Elevate junior golf program


From left, junior golfers Sebastian Camacho and Edward Lee pose with coach Joe “Kamikaze” Camacho last Thursday after their practice at the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort driving range. (Jon Perez)

CNMI Sports Hall of Famer Jess Wabol dreamt of elevating the Commonwealth’s junior golf program and with him gone, his colleagues are hoping to continue his vision.

Wabol, who died in 2013, wanted CNMI junior golfers competing in higher-level tournaments and Tony Satur, CNMI Attorney General Edward Manibusan, and Joe “Kamikaze” Camacho are doing their best to realize the former’s dream.

The junior program, which had Leina Kim and the now Rev. Fr. James Balajadia as two of its products, has been in existence for a number of years now and has in its fold over 20 youngsters that regularly practice every Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort’s driving range.

Included in the pool are perennial title contender Edward Lee and promising prospect Sebastian Camacho, who are being groomed to lead the CNMI to off-island tournaments, especially in competitions that attract the top players in the world.

Both Lee and Camacho are fresh from competing in the 21st Philippine Airlines Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines Junior Interclxub Championship held at the Pradera Verde Golf & Country Club in Lubao, Pampanga.

Lee almost won the individual crown in the 13-14 division, losing only in the playoffs to last year’s runner-up Tae Soo Kim, while Camacho finished in the Top 10—a huge feat for the Grace Christian Academy freshman considering that he only started playing golf five months ago.

“Seeing the junior golf program competing at a higher level has been one of Jess’ visions. Too bad he could no longer see the fruits of our efforts, I’m sure he would have been proud,” said Joe Camacho, who joined Lee and Sebastian Camacho in the trip to the Philippines.

“These two would be better and more prepared next year. This is what we, Jess, and the other veterans, have wanted. To have CNMI junior golfers competing and getting the experience in top level off-island tournaments,” he added.

Joe has been coaching the young Camacho since November and saw how his game blossomed. Lee, meanwhile, has been a perennial title contender in the local golf circuit and had represented the CNMI in tournaments in Guam and San Diego.

Joe said that he is looking forward to have both teen par-busters join more off-island tournaments in the coming months.

“At least they get to experience a new level of competition. They would be better prepared, mentally and physically. Next year, we know what to do and expect. We only have one practice round, while others practically knew the layout of the Pradera Verde golf course, and yet both of them performed beyond our expectations,” the coach said.

He added that course knowledge was the only advantage the other participants had against the CNMI pair.

“Skill-wise, these two had the advantage. Still, it was a good thing that they gained a new experience. They experienced how to work with a caddie and with their decision making on how to approach each hole. They already know what to expect for next year. The only thing that they need to work on is their stamina,” Joe said.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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