Golf whiz Miguel Luis Lopez Tabuena first came into the international spotlight when he won the silver medal in the men’s individual event in the 2010 Asian Games; he was only 16.
Miguel proceeded to turn pro in 2011, joining the Asian Tour, the Philippine Open, and the Philippine Golf Tour. In 2016, he shared the Sportsman of the Year award of the Philippine Sportswriters Association with boxers Donnie Nietes and Nonito Donaire.
Obviously, Miguel’s parents Luigi and Lorna Tabuena did something right by getting their son into sports early. In an e-mail interview, Lifestyle asked Luigi about parenting a golf prodigy.
What did you do to raise him as a sportsman?
Miguel first learned about golf as a baby, watching PGA tournaments on TV. His “lullabies” were the 1996 Masters with Nick Faldo, and 1997 Masters of Tiger Woods. My wife and I enjoyed watching golf on TV, and our kids, who slept in our bedroom, were brainwashed.
Little did we know our bunso would fall in love with the sport and make it a career.
At 1½ years old, he picked up his first golf club, plastic clubs and plastic balls.
We would let him hit balls in the garden of our home, up, down, left and right. Straight at me, into a basket, over a tree, into our balcony. You name it, he made it a target.
Soon after that, he started hitting real golf balls with the plastic clubs—but that didn’t last very long.
We then had to cut my father’s old golf club so that Miguel could use it. By this time he was hitting real golf balls with a real club, and the rest is history.
A little toddler still drinking from milk bottles and in diapers spent his afternoons in the driving range, hitting six buckets of balls at a time.
Every year from when he was 6, we would take him to the United States to compete. We followed him around from tournament to tournament, encouraging him, telling him that it wasn’t about the winning—“As long as you try your best, Mom and I are happy.” It was important for us that he enjoyed what he was doing, and that golf didn’t become something he had to do.
Now that he has made the decision to become a professional golfer, he understands the work he needs to put in. He understands that it is business and that it is his life. But he also knows that it doesn’t define him.
How did you help him handle losing and winning?
From an early age, he learned the thrill and pride of winning and the heartbreak of losing and falling short. In those times, we celebrated the effort and told him it was okay. He always took it harder, sometimes telling us, “Stop telling me it’s okay! It’s not okay!”
We knew what he meant. He wanted to win. He always has that fight in him. It was something we recognized and tried to help him manage.
Eventually he learned that winning all the time was just not possible.
He would be so quiet, almost as if this little boy was internalizing the whole game he had just played.
We let him be. After a few hours he would be back to his usual happy self.
I think family, and the support we all try to show him— even from his siblings, who spent summers following him and watching his games, and continue to do so even today—have taught Miguel that no matter what, he has constants. That when his game isn’t what he hoped it would be, he can still come home to family that will always support and love him.
When he sees us after a game, good or bad, he knows that we want to celebrate with him. He usually won’t want to discuss the game, so we just sit with him, spend time with him. These are the moments that shape him as a person and as an athlete.
If there’s anything that we want him to learn from being in his position, it’s how to lose with grace and dignity and win with integrity and humility.
Then we will know we have succeeded as parents of a world-class athlete.