Sandals score hole-in-one with USA Travel Agent Golf Tournament
PHIL UNDERWOOD from Alabama, United States, is exactly the kind of visitor that Sandals hopes to score a hole-in-one with as the resort yesterday teed off its 15th annual USA Travel Agent Golf Tournament at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, St Ann.
"I am here just for vacation, but I play golf everywhere I go," said Underwood, who was raring to tackle the greens as soon as travel agents brought in from all across the United States by Sandals finished the first of two days on the picturesque 18-hole course with Team 11 on 61, holding a four-stroke lead ahead of three teams locked on 65 - Teams 15, 6 and 12.
"If anybody is coming here, I would tell them to play golf," said Underwood, unwittingly sounding like he was one of the 54 travel agents Sandals is hosting at the weekend as part of its continued push to market Jamaica as a golfing destination to the world.
The Alabama native had to pause when asked how many courses he had played worldwide before naming, "Iberostar in the Dominican Republic, Canc?n (Mexico), Italy, Spain," adding that it was his first visit to Jamaica, but it was his second day on the course after making his debut on Tuesday.
"I played on Tuesday. The course is good, I like the layout. The greens roll good, but they are slow," he said, before pointing to Oshae Hay, a product of Sandals' Golf Academy, and adding,"great caddies", a testament to the programme which targets youths in the Upton area, the likes of Romaine Evans, the 2015 Caribbean junior champion.
Mike Norton, vice-president, group sales, Sandals, said having travel agents compete at the annual tournament gives them a first-hand experience of the course, which has been ranked among the top three in Jamaica by USA Today.
"We are expanding our golf to get groups here, especially," he pointed out. "We firmly believe more golfers are coming to Jamaica, and we are certainly getting more interest.
"We now have recently appointed Jake Coldiron, who is from a golfing background and whose role is to increase the golf market by targeting golf tour operators, travel agents that focus on golf as well as to get country clubs on board," Norton added, pointing out that clubs stand to benefit from a 'sixth-room-free' promotion during off-peak times.