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October 22, 2004
The Westin Rio Mar and the Puerto Rico Golf Association kicked off Puerto Rico's hosting of the World Amateur Team Golf Championships (WATC) this week on its Ocean and River courses.
The WATC is the biggest amateur golf event in the world (so far, golf has not received the International Olympic Committee's blessing for the Olympics) and October 20-31 marks the first time in history Puerto Rico plays host to the event.
The women kicked off the tournament Wednesday with 48 teams contending for the Espirito Santo trophy. The event is held every two years and Australia is the reigning women's champ. In 2002, the men's and women's events were held in different venues, Malaysia and Germany, respectively. This year, the event is all on two of Puerto Rico's most beautiful golf courses the George and Tom Fazio designed Ocean course with the Atlantic ocean as its backdrop and Greg Norman's River course, with the El Yunque rainforest looming large.
The men begin play next week with a record 73 teams expected to contest the Eisenhower Trophy.
The WATC is a huge event inside the golf world, yet pretty obscure for the rest of the world. Still, the list of golfers who have played the WATC on their way to greatness indicates its an event worth watching: Some of tomorrow's top pro golfers are honing their skills here. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, David Duval and Sergio Garcia are just a few of the top pros who played WATC early in their careers.
Canada's Mary Ann Lapointe set a WATC women's first-round record on the first day of play with a score of 67, which gave the Canadians an early lead in the four-day tournament.
"I was nervous on the first tee and that's a good thing. The first time you play any course you're a little bit shaky but I settled in after that," said Lapointe, whose 67 bettered the WATC record of 68 matched for the third time by Thailand's Naree Son Wongluekiet in 2002 in Germany.
Who's on first? The Cangrejeros
Let's see if you can follow this. The San Juan Senadores in the Puerto Rico Winter League became the Santurce Cangrejeros this week. The merger now officially means the ballclub has taken on more names than Elizabeth Taylor. When Carlos Baerga bought them in the late 90s, he moved the team from Arecibo to Bayamon and renamed them Vaqueros. Due to lack of fan support in Bayamon, Baerga moved them to Hiram Bithorn Stadium last season and they became Senadores. The original Senadores became Carolina Gigantes in the late 90s, after having played for nearly 30 years in Bayamon before a brief attempt to revive them in San Juan failed and sent them packing to Carolina to inhabit that city's new stadium.
Meanwhile, on Bithorn's other dugout, the Santurce Cangrejeros got shipped to Manati earlier this year, purchased by major leaguer Jose "Tony" Valentin, and will make their debut in that town next month as the Atenienses.
The San Juan-Santurce move is confusing. It's either politically motivated to shore up more votes for San Juan mayor Jorge Santini's reelection campaign or else just plain craziness on the part of WL president Joaquin Monserrate Matienzo and the team's owner, Carlos Baerga.
Either way, it's hard to explain why the Senadores are now becoming Cangrejeros. Monserrate was Santurce GM last season when the Cangrejeros played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium and couldn't stand to be in the same room as Santini by the end of last season, when then-Santurce owner Julio Hazim threw up his hands and sold the team outright to Valentin.
Will the fans back the new-look Santurce Cangrejeros? We'll know next month. It's true that despite Baerga's efforts, the team draw few fans as Senadores, but then again, the last year's Cangrejeros (now Atenienses) didn't do much better at Bithorn Stadium. Anyway, the Winter League needs much more than just marriages of convenience to breathe life back into its game.
Carlos Beltran is on fire
It's hard to get interested in the Winter League when there's a World Series to be played. Houston Astros slugger Carlos Beltran has looked immense in the NLCS. His solo home run in the bottom of the fifth during Game 5 of the NLCS was the key to Houston's 6-5 victory. It was a personal record for Beltran, his eighth home run in the playoffs, tying the mark set by San Francisco's Barry Bonds in 2002. Going into the decisive Game 7 versus St. Louis, Beltran was hitting .471 with 5 RBI and nine runs scored in the NLCS. If Houston makes it to the World Series, Beltran will be able to name his price when he negotiates his contract this winter.
WBO president Francisco Valcarcel accused of raping teen in Dominican Republic
Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel, a native of Puerto Rico and the president of the World Boxing Organization, faces charges he raped a 16-year-old girl during a visit to the neighboring island this past April.
Valcarcel, meanwhile, said the case against him is fabricated by the manager of boxer Joan Guzman, Rafael Guerrero, who claims Valcarcel is impeding Guzman from breaking his contract with British promoter Frank Warren.
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.