Sunday, December 28, 2008
THE DAY ASHIA PLAYED AS A CHILD AGAIN
By Armand Dean Nocum
“I wish I was born as poor as them … at least I could play all day.’’
This innocent remark from my eight-year-old daughter just floored me a day before Christmas when I was driving her home from practice at a nearby golf driving range in Quezon City.
We had then spotted several children knocking at car windows asking for food. Seeing them, I told Ashia Marie just how lucky she was to have food to eat, a good school; and a family that could provide for her needs.
Ashia, who had been regularly training for golf competitions since age five, told me that she longs to play with children of informal settlers who live near our house in Don Antonio Heights, Quezon City.
At first, I scolded her for not knowing how to be contented and thankful to God for her small blessings. But later at home, it dawned on me that my little girl is slowly losing her childhood for the dream of bringing honor to the country by winning in junior golf tournaments abroad.
After showing interest in golf at age two, Ashia had spent most of her childhood in driving ranges and fairways than malls or playgrounds. Her life since then had revolved mostly around school, tutorials and golf.
Unlike other children who can rest after school, Ashia is driven straight to the golf course to practice before returning home to study. This happens about three times a week. Other junior golfers do this daily.
On weekends, she is carried off to the car still asleep as early as 4-5 AM so she could make it to golf tournaments out of Metro Manila. And after the awarding ceremonies and braving the SLEX or NLEX traffic, she arrives home about 6 PM. Her weekends see her leaving house before daybreak and returning when the sun has set.
Mostly, she does not mind this kind of schedule because she enjoys the game she fell in love with long before she learned how to talk. She was calling it “dolf” at two years old. She was born cute and with light complexion, but constant exposure to the sun had turned her dark.
So far, golf enabled her at six to qualify and proudly bring the country’s flag in the 2007 Callaway Junior World Golf Championship in San Diego, California. Although caddy errors and numerous penalty strokes caused her to slide to No. 5 at the end of the tournament, Ashia still made the country proud by making a hole-in-one in the prestigious golf tournament.
I cannot get mad enough or fire the caddy because the nervous and error-prone caddy was me.
In spite of me and in the hands of local caddies, Ashia rebounded by making two more holes-in-one in a span of two weeks in two tournaments here. For making three holes in one by age seven and in a span of 10 months, friends now call her the “Muslim Ace” (her mother Annora is a Tausug).
This Christmas and with more time out of school, Ashia can’t help but miss the children she used to play with before she got serious in golf.
So, on Christmas Day and after she helped distribute bags of food, toys and grocery items to kids coming from informal homes, we allowed Ashia to spend the whole afternoon playing with them. I promised to allow her to play with them some more in the succeeding holidays.
But after resuming her golf practice and playing in tournaments after Christmas, Ashia has yet to play with her old friends whose carefree lives she envies.