Sport

Jamaica Open Golf Championship set for December 6-9

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Just ahead of the 51st staging of the Jamaica Open Golf Championship there is a call to get the sport more accessible to all Jamaicans, even as it was revealed that golf might be included on the curriculum at G C Foster College.

The prestigious Jamaica Open Golf Championship, to be held between December 6 and 9 at the world-famous Half Moon Golf Course in Montego Bay, was launched yesterday at the Caymanas Golf Club and has already seen over 50 players registered for a chance to win the US17,000 prize.

For the first time in the history of the event, the top-four professional players will earn automatic spots to the 2018 Latino America PGA BMW Jamaica Classic courtesy of SportsMax. The LatinoAmerica Classic is just below the top-ranked PGA tour, and is seen as a stepping stone towards the top.

Peter Chin, president of the Jamaica Golf Association (JGA), said since the initial staging in 1953, the tournament has attracted top-class golfers such as Roberto de Vincenzo, Lee Elder, Bruce Fleisher, Jim Thorpe and in recent times Charlie Wi and Olin Browne.

“Over the years the Jamaica Open has experienced growth, both in terms of sponsorship and the calibre of players who are attracted to the event,” said Chin.

He said PGA Champions Tour players such as Russ Cochran, who won in 2011 and 2012; the 2011 US Open Senior champion Olin Browne; and the last winner Paul Eales are some of the top players to have graced the championship.

Denzil Wilks, general manager at Sports Development Foundation, one of the sponsors, challenged the association to take golf to the pinnacle.

“I am hearing things like we have the best courses in the world. We had course before some places in the United States and the question is obvious, why aren't we at the top of golf?

“I want to throw out a challenge to the association. I recognise the work being done and the fact that the Jamaica Open is being staged for the 51st time is outstanding in itself. There is no good reason why we shouldn't be near the top of the pile as far as golf is concerned,” said Wilks.

“I know it is an expensive sport and that's where creativity has to come in, because as soon as we start to expose it across all classes, we will begin to discover talent that you never dream of. I want to encourage the JGA and other stakeholders to do that,” he added.

Donnie Dawson, acting director at the Jamaica Tourist Board, noted that his organisation is pleased to be associated with a tournament in the region that is celebrating this kind of legacy.

“Golf is important to us in the market as Jamaicans. We have been at it for years. Golf is paramount to what we do in how we promote Jamaica,” said Dawson.

He continued: “I don't want people to play golf while they are in Jamaica. I want people to come to Jamaica to play golf. That's a big difference. We continue to promote Jamaica as the premier golfing destination, and the Jamaica Open... I am excited and the Jamaica Tourist Board is behind you, 100 per cent”.

Meanwhile, golf president Peter Chin replied to Wilks' suggestions, saying: “Contrary to what many people believe, a lot of the representatives who play for Jamaica begin at the cadet level.

“There is a perception that golf is an upper class sport, there are some truths in that. But there are inroads being made at the lower level,” he argued.

“Recently we had a visit from a representative from World Golf Association, which is our governing body, and we got technical assistance from them. They came and looked at our coaching needs and specifically we asked them to go to GC Foster to see how we can include golf in the curriculum there. The truth is no sport, no matter what it is, can grow unless you have coaches,” Chin offered.

the last tournament held this past January, because it was postponed from last December, saw Englishman Paul Eales, who has three European Tour wins, emerge champion with 215. Americans Tom Gillis was second with 216 and Kenny Goodykoontz with 218 was third.

The top-three Jamaicans were Orville Christie (230), Michael Rowe (231) and Wesley Brown (232).

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