Thailand, Scotland, and the United States.
These are just some of the places golf has taken Ivan Sablan.
Most recently, the Father Duenas Memorial School senior competed with four classmates in the 2020 High School Golf National Invitational in Pinehurst, North Carolina. While each Friar represented the island well and brought pride to the Marianas, Ivan Sablan’s 58th-place in a field of 335 on the nation’s best teenagers was a major achievement.
Since he was 8 years old, Ivan Sablan has been racking up international experience and pushing himself to become a better golfer.
“When I play these tournaments, I play with the best players in my age group, so, you can say, the competition level is high,” Ivan Sablan said. “My experience playing in Pinehurst was great.
“I’ve always been confident in my playing abilities, playing at Pinehurst proved to me that I am able to play high-level golf against some of the best players in the nation.”
With no clear-cut date when high school sports will restart due to the 2019 novel coronavirus, or when the island will end its second lockdown in six months and any sporting competitions will be allowed to return, Sablan is hopeful to gain more experience before advancing to the next level.
My immediate goal is to play at the NCAA division I or II level, he said.
“Of course, if I have the opportunity, I would love to represent Guam in international competition,” he added.
Mark Nanpei, the Guam National Golf Federation director of junior golf, thinks Ivan Sablan’s showing at Pinehurst will help him, especially with attracting college recruiters.
“Playing at Pinehurst was his first time to compete in a real team event,” Nanpei said. “It gave him an idea how it will be when he plays collegiate golf.”
Nanpei, who has known Ivan Sablan since he was in diapers, feels he will evolve into one of Team Guam’s strongest athletes, especially as his short-game and ability to handle pressure situations improves.
“If he wants to reach new heights, he will need to improve his putting and strengthen his mental game,” Nanpei said.
At Pinehurst, with just one bad day on the links, the sub-par way-above-par Day-2 performance still haunts Ivan Sablan.
I had two good days of play in Pinehurst, he said.
“My second day of play was disappointing and effected my overall standing in the tournament,” he added. “Since coming back to Guam, I am working to make sure that I can play good, consistent golf throughout an entire tournament.
“I really wish I could replay my second day.”
But with the island’s golf courses shut down due to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero having declared Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 on Aug. 16, Ivan Sablan has learned to make the most of the situation by getting creative in how he trains.
“I continue to work on my short game in my back yard by practicing my chipping,” he said.
Ivan Sablan’s father, Richard Sablan, the president of the GNGF, has helped his son stay in the game and his swing sharp by adding a net.
“At this point, this is the best I can do until the golf courses reopen,” Richard Sablan said.
Despite challenges, in a sport that lends itself nicely to social distancing, akin to a walk in the park or a stroll along the beach, which are allowed in PCOR1, Richard Sablan offers advice.
“Practice, practice, practice, practice, ” he said. “This sport takes a tremendous amount of dedication and commitment, and it takes a lot of work to become a good player.”