Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Jamaica Open Golf Championship returns in January

Published:Friday | December 16, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Arguably the most prestigious golf event on the local calendar, the Jamaica Open, sponsored by Half Moon and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, returns from January 11 through 14, 2017, at the world-famous Half Moon Golf Course in Montego Bay, St James.

The championship has long attracted top-flight golfing talent, both professional and amateur from Jamaica and around the world, with players journeying from as far away as Italy and Israel. This year's renewal is expected to be no different, with veterans and newcomers from the United States Professional Golfers Association, as well as other professional and amateur circuits set to confirm.

Jamaica was introduced to international golf with the first staging of the Jamaica Open in 1953 at the Constant Spring Golf Club in St Andrew. The event lured such contemporary golfing greats as Roberto de Vicenzo, Jim Ferree, Bob Toski, Barry Lane, Lee Elder, Bruce Fleisher and Jim Thorpe and spawned local Jamaica Open champions and legends such as Jasper Markland and Seymour Rose.

The championship rapidly grew in stature to ascend to the peak of Caribbean Open Championships. Through lack of sponsorship and an uncertain economic climate, 1995 saw the beginning of what would be a 10-year hiatus.

In 2006, the Jamaica Open made a welcome return at the Caymanas Golf & Country Club. Jamaican Johnny Bloomfield captured the coveted trophy and thereafter won three consecutive titles.

This premier championship, which was played at the Half Moon, Montego Bay, in 1990 and 1991, returned to that course in 2008 and has remained a fixture.

RENEWED GROWTH

Since its rebirth, the event has experienced renewed growth, both in terms of sponsorship and the calibre of players who are attracted to the championship. PGA Champions Tour players such as the 2011 winner, Russ Cochran, and the 2011 US Senior Open Champion Olin Browne have competed, as well as golf professionals from Latin, North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe.

It is fitting that in 2012, the Jamaica Open was accorded recognition by the Jamaican government and was an official event on the calendar of 'Jamaica 50' celebratory activities. The 2012 championship was won by Russ Cochran. That year, a golf clinic was conducted by Cochran along with Olin Browne, with contributions from Champions Tour players such as Jim Thorpe and Dick Mast. Students from the In-the-City and National Junior Golf Programmes benefitted from this session.

After another short hiatus, anticipation is high and growing for yet another successful renewal of a championship of undisputed international fame and another premium Jamaican attraction, for both the sports-minded and the general visitor.