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Malanquin Golf Course expands – but it’s more than that

By James Palombo

On Friday, December 6, the Malanquin Golf Club celebrated the opening of their new nine holes. This meant that almost 50 years after their initial opening of the nine-hole venue the dream of having a full golf course has been realized. For the non-golfer this may not seem an overly significant event. But that may only be because the essence of what was accomplished, along with the history that it speaks to, might be going unnoticed. To the point, what transpired with the golf course has as much to do with what has been happening in San Miguel as any other development related to the city’s continuing progress.  Perhaps an explanation is in order.

Although I am not an official member of Malanquin, I have friends who are, and between the playing and the few drinks afterward it’s become my most immediate once-a-week fix for a life-long golfing habit. It just so happened that in finishing our usual Friday round our foursome quickly got intermingled with the inaugural, December 6 evening party – which included speeches by golf course and political dignitaries, an open bar with some great appetizers and a cordial mix of the golfing public.

The evening was certainly enjoyable, especially in that there was a great deal of pride being exhibited as the new holes in both design and playability turned out almost beyond expectation.  But as I talked with some of the members there seemed to be more to the proceedings than was immediately apparent. In other words, I seemed to sense that what was being celebrated was not only the accomplishment of a dream  but the recognition of the work ahead in continuation of that dream,  i.e., the effort to maintain what had now been put into play could be matched with the same energy and effort already displayed. In short, it seemed the membership was feeling that it was up to any of the future challenges that might come their way.

In sensing this I thought I might be making too big a stretch for the event; maybe I was making more out of things than I should. But being the curious, journalist type I wanted to pursue the notion. With that in mind I had the most pleasurable opportunity to sit and chat with one of the founding members of the initial Malanquin Club, Manuel Garay Vinals (or Manolo as he is more commonly known.).  He was kind enough to invite me to his home to talk about the club’s development, and it was within that context that I quickly realized that what I had been feeling was indeed on point with what was in the air at the Malanquin celebration.

In brief Manolo and I talked about the beginnings of the club, back to the late 60s, when just four men originally got together to talk about developing a golf course in San Miguel.  In speaking about those days he referenced words like vision, enthusiasm, energy, heart and soul, and he stressed that maintaining a balance between culture/community and growth was always a primary consideration. And as would be expected, there was also the need to make sure that there was enough money to legitimately support “progress.”  He noted the sentiment that surrounded their dream and how that involved the spirit of both the Mexicans and Americans who were part of the course’s development. (I found it interesting to hear that the first President of the club was actually an American woman, Nell Fernandez Martinez.) He underscored the fact that the determination of all those who became involved brought its own kind of luck with what transpired, certainly a feature of any successful effort.  And when the nine-hole course was finished he noted that, especially given the design and luck already on the table, there was indeed a feeling that whatever might lay ahead the new membership would be up to the task. Importantly he also noted that the development of the course was much like the development of San Miguel, a struggle to make new things happen while keeping the culture of the city alive and well.

So that was what the celebration on that Friday brought forth. I have to say that I certainly enjoyed my talk with Senor Garay Vinals especially in the sense that he vividly bridged the images and spirit of the past with the efforts of the day. And being a Malanquin golfer I have to tip my hat to all those who had, in Manolo’s words, the “vision, the energy, enthusiasm and heart and soul” to make what is now a really great golf course. Like with San Miguel in general, I along with many others extend sincere compliments for what has been accomplished and offer best wishes for what the designs of the future may hold.


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