Sandals club a playground of opportunity for juniors
For many of the youth living in and around Upton District, St Ann, the Sandals Golf and Country Club provides a playground of opportunity with its junior golf programme.
Catering to children as young as five years, the long-running golf project, part of the community outreach for the hotel resort chain, is enabling talent for the sport and bigger things.
"It teaches them golf and life skills," Miguel Arthurs, general manager, Sandals Golf and Country Club, explained.
"Discipline, sportsmanship, honesty, provides tutors for academics, mentors," he continued, outlining benefits of the programme that is coordinated from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
Through training, the participants develop their game to a high standard, with many moving on to represent both Jamaica's junior and senior golf teams.
In fact, the current Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship winner, Romaine Evans, developed in the programme, as well as Wesley Brown, who has graduated onto the United States Professional circuit.
It even provides opportunities for a higher education, through golfing scholarships.
"We've people who joined the programme not thinking they'd have gone on to college," exclaimed Arthurs. "It's opening doors where they didn't exist.
"That's teaching a man how to fish," he continued. "In a word, that sort of experience is priceless."
The programme is funded by the Sandals Foundation, plus proceeds from events such as the recent series of Travel Industry Golf competitions, which culminated with the 21st staging of the Baxter's Golf Tournament.
During these events there are contests such as the Closest to the Pin, Longest Drive and Putting and Chipping. Participants pay to enter and those monies are funnelled into the golf club's junior programme.
"It's the only way to secure the program and continue the development of the youth," said Arthurs.
Expanding on the positives, he pointed to tournaments held at the club that involve members of the programme and noted the effect it had in bringing out family and friends.
"Families, friends come out to the tournaments, so you're creating a ripple effect ... That's where you're making a real change, when you can change the psyche (mindset) of a person that is priceless. That person can change the thought process of others as well," Arthurs reasoned.
"It's a game of discipline and sportsmanship ... and you're seeing tangible results. If you're not seeing tangible change then it's pointless. There's the community effect and it's building families," he added.
"The junior golf program has rekindled my faith about what is possible when you invest in young people."