Golfers face stiff wind as Jamaica Open tees off
ROSE HALL, St James — The 50th staging of the Jamaica Open Golf tournament will get underway this morning at the upgraded Half Moon Course in Rose Hall, near Montego Bay, with the first pairing set to tee off at 7:30 am.
A strong field of local and international players is expected to battle tough, windy conditions throughout the day.
The prestigious event is returning to the local calendar after a four-year break with American Russ Cochrane winning the last staging in December 2012.
Heavy winds have buffeted sections of the island and western Jamaica for the past few days and, along with overcast conditions, are expected to throw additional challenges in the way of the 77 players, who will start their quest for a share of the US$100,000 prize on Saturday evening.
David Mais, assistant tournament director, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that if the heavy winds continue the organisers will be forced to put measures in place to counteract the conditions.
While expecting a complete three rounds, Mais said yesterday if the conditions persisted into today, the tournament organisers would move the tee pins closer to the holes to compensate for the wind.
“If it gets very windy (today) before the start of play we will move tee markers a little closer to the hole and shorten the hole. As it is now, if the strong winds persist, if a player was accustomed to hitting a seven iron 180 yards, he will only be able to hit it 150 yards instead,” said Mais.
In spite of the weather conditions, Mais said everything was in place for the start of the three-round event after the Pro-Am that was played yesterday.
Former champion Tom Gillis will start as the man to beat, but Mais expects the battle will go down to Saturday’s final day.
Three-time winner Johnny Bloomfield, who now teaches at the Doral course in Florida; Wesley Brown, who plays at the Sandals Upton Course; and Al Robinson, who plays at the nearby Cinnamon Hills course in Rose Hall, are among the top local professionals who, Mais said, could make things interesting.
The amateur competition is also expected to be competitive with top locals Sean Morris, Dr Tommy Lee, Peter Chin and Owen Samuda set to go up against a number of overseas-based players.
With the commitment of the owners of the Half Moon course to make the venue the best championship course in the Caribbean in two years, Mais expects the course to play very well after over US$3 million worth of work being done over the last two years.
“The players are all very good, but they are going to find the conditions fairly tricky but fair... the greens are running very smooth, not very quick but a nice speed,” Mais ended.