Short in length but long in talent, Miguel Tabuena believes Filipino golfers have what it takes to get into the big leagues.
In fact, he’s blazing a trail for Philippine men’s golf the way Yuka Saso did in her side of the fence when she won the US Women’s Open last June.
“I think I can safely say I’m ready for the bigger leagues,” Tabuena told the Daily Tribune. “I think my game is in a good place — and mentally and physically, I know I am also.”
He underscored his readiness to go big-time by essaying an emphatic triumph in the Idaho Open last Sunday, routing the field by four to record his first win in the US.
The 26-year-old ICTSI-backed two-time Philippine Open champion flew to the US last June in pursuit of a dream to play in the PGA Tour and said he was more than satisfied with his performance following a three-month buildup.
“This is the first one I played in the US since coming over a few months ago,” he said. “I’ve been practicing and training (physically) leading up to this.”
Next up for the first Filipino to play in the weekend in a full-player PGA Tour event in the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii is the Korn Ferry Q-School in Dayton, Nevada on 28 September.
“My immediate target would have to be gaining status on the Korn Ferry Tour. I want to be able to play week-in and week-out,” said Tabuena. “In the long run (but hopefully not too long), of course, the dream is to be playing on the PGA Tour.”
“I guess my victory (Idaho Open) sort of showed that I’m doing something right and I’m praying I can get through the Q-School,” he added.
There are also a few ways to play in the world’s premier men’s circuit — go through the Monday qualifiers the way Justin Quiban did when he became the first Filipino to do so by finishing among the Top 4 in the elims to snare a berth in the 3M Open Championship last July.
He missed the cut but was more than convinced that Filipinos indeed could mix it up with the big guns.
“I had a great time seeing that I could hang out with the big boys in the PGA,” Quiban said, a Manila Southwoods pro who won two titles in the Philippine Golf Tour, including in PGT Asia at Luisita in 2017.
Quiban, 25, also vied in the recent pre-qualifying tournament for the Korn Ferry Tour in Nebraska, missing the cut by just one after a pair of 68s in the last two days of the 54-hole tournament.
But that only validated Tabuena’s premise that Filipino players indeed can slug it out with the big guns on the big stage.
“That was cool that Justin was able to get into that PGA Tour event through the Monday qualifier,” Tabuena said. “I think I can speak for most pro golfers when I say that if we have a chance to play on the bigger stage (PGA Tour), we will.”
“So, it’s worth a shot, whichever way you decide to try,” he added.
Like Quiban, Tabuena is on his own in pursuing his dream although he has linked up with some strength and conditioning coaches to stay in shape and in fighting form while at the same time strictly following the health and safety protocols.
“Right now, I’m here on my own but in contact with coach J3 (Altea). Also working with coaches here for strength training,” he said.
“I’m staying careful, still masking up. I’ve been vaccinated, so that’s another layer of protection,” Tabuena said. “But I’m hoping to practice and play as much as I can and live and still compete in this new normal.”
To be ranged against taller, heftier rivals in his Korn Ferry drive, Tabuena isn’t a bit fazed by the challenge in length even as he underscored the need to play with more accuracy from tee to green.
“My average carry is about 295 yards right now,” he said. “I think that will hold up against the longer hitters. I hope to stay accurate in the long and short game.”
Truly, the road to (golfing) glory will be long, bumpy and exacting, but Tabuena is so used to overcoming adversity and is more than ready to chase that dream through hard work, determination and sheer faith.