Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Youth golf programme thriving at Sandals

Published:Saturday | September 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Sandals Foundation awardees (from left) Austin Swaby, Romaine Evans and Dwight Moulton. -Contributed

Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports

LESSONS for golf, lessons for life.

Participants in the youth programme at Sandals Golf and Country Club have been teeing up with a shot of both, as they look to harness their game on the greens.

As is the case with most things, at its genesis it was small, with only two children, under the tutelage of Bill Williams.

His reason for starting it is simple and understandable.

"I got entangled with a lady, she had a nine-year-old lad. I took him here and started him off with a club; then there was another lad, and another one, and another one," Williams explains of the manner in which the programme grew.

That was eight years ago.

Now that first lad, his stepson Dwight 'Chad' Moulton, represented Jamaica at the Caribbean Junior Golf Championship in Puerto Rico just recently.

Moulton, who earned eight subjects at York Castle, has also secured a landmark golf scholarship to the University of Technology.

A second scholarship is on the table, but the intended recipient is back in classes, pursuing mathematics to satisfy the course qualification standards.

Over time, several facets have remained - the inclusion of children from the community in which Sandals operates its business, more so those whose parents were staff, or caddies on the golf course.

The numbers, though not significant, haven't changed dramatically either, with 10 now on roster for the Saturday morning sessions that run from 9 a.m. to noon.

"During that time, we go over rules, etiquette. We teach them everything you'll need to know when you go to play," said Tony Ebanks, general manager of the club that is located in the hills at Exchange, St Ann.

At their class, there is a heavy emphasis on discipline. Another area in which they maintain a firm handle is education.

Maths and English classes

Every Saturday and Sunday, maths and English classes are held for the youngsters in the programme.

"I wanted to step it up a little further and include academics because some of them weren't the brightest or doing the best in school, but they're here, they love being here, they love golf," Ebanks explained.

"I made it mandatory that every month, or at the end of every semester, they bring their report card for me to evaluate," the club's general manager continued.

"That was probably one of the best things that came out of the programme, because everybody stepped up significantly - manners, attitude in classes. It made me proud just to see their academic level improve overall and their mannerisms, conduct, appearance as well."

As the programme evolved, Sandals Foundation was engaged and Ebanks said they "were quick to come in and assist".

"Their assistance took the form of membership fees, travelling expenses for tournaments, entry fees for tournaments," Ebanks noted. "This was an effort to have them participate in the required number of tournaments to become eligible for trials for the national junior team."

Many of those in their programme have grown into the national junior ranks, even senior as well.

"These kids did so well that the Sandals Foundation intervened again and provided financial assistance in the form of tuition fees, books, uniforms, in some cases travelling expenses for high school and for them to complete high school," Ebanks stated.

"What we want to create are good young men out of children who may have drifted in a different direction. So we help them with golf, but we didn't want to just leave it at that. We want to give them whatever skills we can here at the golf course and to ensure that academically they can get subjects," Ebanks said.