Tabuena takes the long road to Waialae
Let other kids have their Disney videos and Sesame Street tapes.
When it was time to try to usher a precocious 4-year-old Miguel Tabuena off to bed for the night, it had to be Tiger.
And not “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” either.
But Tiger Woods’ breakthrough 1997 Masters victory, of all things.
“When I was 4 years old I fell asleep watching Tigers Woods at the
1997 Masters every night,” Tabuena said. “We had a VHS of it and I watched it over and over, every night until I feel asleep. I think I memorized every line of the commentators from it. I still remember it.”
For a youngster growing up in the Philippines it was more than just a bedtime story to nod off to — it was a glimpse of the path that has brought him to the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he has shot an 8-under-par 132. The opening-round 67 and
Friday’s 65 have him tied for 13th place and making his first PGA Tour cut.
Along the way he has come to carry the flag for golfers from the Philippines, a nation better known for its championship boxers.
Amid the partisan galleries for players from Japan, Korea and other nations arrayed around the Waialae Country Club course this week there has been an emerging following for Tabuena, who relishes the support as he pursues the only career that matches his passion.
“I wanted to be a pro golfer ever since I can remember,” Tabuena said. Actually, probably even earlier. His earliest memories of an interest in golf
date to age 4, two years after his parents first put a miniature set of plastic golf clubs in his hands and watched his future take hold. He putted around their Manila home and out into the yard and then got serious.
“I climbed over the wall to play the third hole at the (Alabang) golf course next door,” Tabuena said.
It would not be the last time that he was determined to take the sport head on. Though he would play other sports, Tabuena’s heart and drive remained with golf. He turned down scholarship offers to two Pac-12 Conference schools to dedicate himself to the task, turning pro at age 16.
And, now, at 22, Tabuena is trying to grab a place on the PGA Tour the hard way. He got into the Sony on a sponsor’s exemption and has set his sights on a top10 finish at Waialae, which would vault him into a spot in the Career Builder Challenge next week in La Quinta, Calif. “And then …” he said hopefully. “It is hard, but it has been done.”
“Everybody’s goal (in golf) is to play the PGA Tour,” Tabuena said. “And, that’s mine, too.”
Tabuena left high school at age 16 in favor of being home schooled while getting an early start on going pro.
“Wherever I traveled (for golf), I took my books with me and studied,” Tabuena said.
It has made for a worldwide education as he has earned places on the Asian and European tours. Tabuena ranked fifth on the Asian Tour, where he won more than $500,000 last year.
In the process there was a silver medal in the Asian Games and a berth in the
Rio de Janeiro Olympics and recognition of being the Philippines’ top athlete in 2015.
Ask him who he looks up to most among golfers from his native land and he’ll tell you Frankie Minoza, a decorated veteran of the Asian and Japan tours.
But when it comes to pursuing a life’s journey he hearkens back to the wellworn VHS-driven memories of his youth.