Sports

51st Jamaica Open tees off today

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer

Thursday, December 07, 2017

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ROSE HALL, St James — A big field of over 100 players will start the 51st Jamaica Open golf tournament today at the Half Moon course in Rose Hall which is expected to be one of the most competitive in a long time.

It will be a rare occasion when two opens will be played in the same calendar year after the 2016 event was pushed back to January this year, but tournament director David Mais said everything was in place for what is expected to be three days of quality golf and great competition.

The first threesome will tee off at 7:30 am with the final group that includes top Jamaican amateur Sean Morris, set to start nearly three hours later.

The players are going after the impressive trophy and the first prize of US$17,000 out of the total purse of US$100,000.

One of the big incentives this weekend is that the top three professionals will get automatic spots in the 2018 LatinoAmerica PGA BMW Jamaica Classic set for April 30-May 6.

Prolonged periods of heavy rains and even massive flooding two weeks ago had caused some concerns about the quality of the course, but Mais told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that they were very impressed with the work done by the staff at Half Moon.

“We were really concerned about the golf course because of the weather and we were worried that the maintenance would not be up to mark,” he said. “But it's really amazing what they have done here and we are so very happy with the effort that Half Moon has made.”

There are still some concerns with the weather, he said, as there could be some rain on Saturday's final day, but checks with the Meteorological Office yesterday showed a high pressure system, which is good news. “But there is a trough that can sneak in on Saturday, so hopefully it won't affect us too much.”

Mais says he is expecting a high level of golf over the 54-hole tournament this weekend as “word of mouth” advertising among the international players had resulted in a large field comprising 75 professionals and 30 amateurs, including the first female player in a long time.

Nine countries will be represented — United States of America, Austria, England, Bermuda, Germany, Canada, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and host country Jamaica.

“We have a lot more professionals playing this year and a number have said they have heard about the Jamaica Open event, so it has been word of mouth; they talk about the Jamaica Open amongst themselves and the entries have increased substantially this year,” he said.

Additionally, the successful staging of the PGA LatinoAmerica event at the nearby Cinnamon Hills course has also helped in getting the word out about the event.

“The LatinoAmerica event would have helped, no doubt,” he admitted, “although only about three or four from that one are here; the good thing is that the word has gotten out.” He added that while most are not at the level of the Latino-America event, some were playing on several mini tours in the United States. “They are still here.”

American Tom Gillis, a former PGA winner, the Jamaica Open winner in 1993 and the second-place finisher last year, is back and Mais says he expects “he would be in contention on the final day”.

Kenny Goodykontz, Andrew Ximines and Gene Jones, who were all in the top 20 in January, will also line up this weekend, while local professionals Leroy McDonald, Michael Rowe, Orville Christie and Peter Horrobin will fly the Jamaican flag.

The lone female, Jennifer Schneider-Brown, a Jamaican who Mais says will hopefully play for the island in international competition soon, will tee off at 8:30 am along with McDonald and Dwayne Pearman.

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