The CNMI saw its first national team for next year’s Pacific Mini Games named when 14 golfers were selected following the final qualifier last Saturday at the Coral Ocean Resort in Agingan.
Making up the CNMI National Golf Team for the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 are J.J. Atalig, Peter “Dung” Tenorio, Harry Nakamura, Joe “Kamikaze” Camacho, and Franco Santos for the men, Nirimai Koebel, Rose Rohringer, and Janet Torres for the women, Li Zhi Yun, Joshua Atalig, Antonio Norita, and Joey Dela Cruz Jr. for the junior men, and Zhimin Jin and Sorian Oh for the junior women.
Atalig topped the five-round qualifier for the men’s that started last July 21 with a 227 followed by Tenorio (230), Nakamura (232), Camacho (237), and Franco (244). Marco Peter actually beat Franco in a tiebreak after both wound up with identical scores, but Peter yielded to Franco so he can concentrate on his duties as chairman of the Pacific Mini Games organizing committee.
Koebel finished No. 1 among the women with her 277 with Rohringer and Torres coming in tied in second place with their 293. Li was first in the junior men with his 247. Atalig and Norita came in second and third with their 263 and 306, respectively. Dela Cruz was fourth with his 312. Zhimin topped the junior women after shooting a 263 with Oh second at 351.
Commonwealth Federation of Golf Associations president Edward Manibusan congratulated all those who made it to the national team and also thanked everyone who took part in the last five qualifiers. He also thanked the Coral Ocean Resort for agreeing to host the golf event for next year’s Mini Games and also the Mini Games organizing committee led by CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta.
“The team that will represent the CNMI will be a great team and we’re so proud of you guys for doing such a great job. In the next few months this team is going to get together and practice and represent the CNMI and I’m sure they will try their best to win the gold,” he said.
For J.J. Atalig, it will be his second time representing the CNMI in the golf competition of the Mini Games, having donned the Commonwealth’s colors in the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
“I feel good. I worked hard to be part of the team. We look forward to just trying to get medals because that’s the goal.”
The final qualifier also saw all golfers vying for a place in the national team walk the course instead of using a golf cart.
“Walking was good despite the rain this morning when we first started. The weather actually cooperated after that. So it worked out pretty good,” said Atalig.
Tenorio, who in the past represented the CNMI in regional competitions in baseball, said it’s a “big honor” to again make the national team for golf this time.
“It’s not easy to make the team. Conditions were really tough today. When we started the rain was really coming hard and the wind was blowing. We just tried to control what best we could and play out until the sun came out. Conditions got better and we tried to maximize because COP is a very long golf course,” he said.
Tenorio said walking the course compared to riding a golf cart was a huge difference.
“Walking you get fatigued easily when you’re not used to it. Riding in a cart you get very lazy and you don’t walk that much. It made a big impact in the game today because not only did you have to walk but you have to keep focus and play against the elements and a very tough group of guys.”
Koebel said she’s very proud to represent the CNMI in next year’s Mini Games.
“It’s tough today because of the rain and it’s a very long course. Specially today the front nine was very tough for me and in the back nine it heated up. It was hot!”
Li, a 13-year-old student from Dandan Middle School, said playing in the final qualifier was tough. “It was really hard. I played OK. It was fun, but it was very hard. It was very tiring [walking] but after a while it was OK. I shot OK. I’m very excited to be part of the CNMI team to the Mini Games next year. There will be a lot of people coming from other places,” he said.
Zhimin seconded Li when she said she’s very proud to be representing her home islands in the quadrennial event next year.
“I feel very honored and happy at the same time,” said the 14-year-old Marianas High School student.
When asked about the ban on golf carts on the fifth qualifier, Zhimin said it really didn’t matter. “ I don’t really saw the difference [between walking and riding a cart].”