Sandals makes swing for PGA status
Sandals Golf and Country Club, in the hills of Upton, St Ann, is already the most-played in the Caribbean, logging 25,600 rounds last year.
That number could increase significantly as Sandals boldly moves to position the par-71 course to Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) status in "the very near future", according to general manager Miguel Arthurs.
Among the events Sandals hosts annually are three marketing competitions, one of which ended at the weekend, the 14th US Travel Agents Golf Tournament. Travel agents from Latin America and Canada are hosted in two other tournaments.
More than 100 travel professionals from the United States played 36 holes, in a four-man scramble format, "giving the travel partners a chance to experience the products first-hand and, hence, being better able to market the destination and facilities to their respective clients", explained Garth Laird, Sandals Resorts' director, Travel Industry Programmes.
Team 10A, led by Christopher Ward, a professional player, won ahead of Team 10 by virtue of having a better back nine, after both sides tied with overall scores of 121 on Saturday.
Ward was among the first-timers at the tournament, who Laird said would get to experience "the renovations done at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, the most complete destination in the Caribbean".
Ward, who organises groups travelling to golf destinations, was a big catch for Sandals as he has been playing on the second-tier professional Web.com tour since 2011 and competed as recently as June in the Air Capital Classic.
He described the course as "fairly easy and enjoyable to play", considering it has shorter holes, compared with others.
"It's been great. It's my first time in Jamaica. I have been to other parts of the Caribbean before. Overall, the experience has been great, a laid-back atmosphere," he said, watching teammate Lindsay Forrester as she birdied the par-four eighth hole, cheered on by Russell and Cody Hulse, the other members of Team 10A.
Ward's comments scored a hole-in-one for Arthurs, general manager for a year-and-a-half, and proud of the role annual travel agents' tournaments play in supporting Sandals Foundation's Junior Golfers programme.
Sandals Golf and Country Club hosted the Jamaica National Amateur Championship earlier this year, the first time the tournament was being held outside the Corporate Area or St Catherine, which Arthurs described as "a resounding success".
The long-term goal, though, is to return Jamaica to pride of place in hosting international tournaments as the island did from 1991 to 1995 when Tryall Golf Club was home to the invitational Johnnie Walker World Golf Championship.