Sat | Apr 20, 2019

All set for thrilling final day at US Travel Agents Golf

Published:Saturday | September 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMAinsley Walters/Gleaner Writer
Last year's 'Best Dress' winners are dressed as butlers for the 16th annual US Travel Agents Golf Tournament first day scramble yesterday at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, Exchange, St Ann. From left: Eric Rosales, Barbara Lee, Keisla Burke and Tom Hagen.

A TWO-way tie on 65 at the top of the leader board has set the stage for a thrilling finale at the 16th annual United States Travel Agents Golf Tournament, which teed off at the Sandals Golf and Country Club yesterday morning with 70 contestants playing four-man scramble at the Upton, Exchange, course in St Ann.

Teams 13 and 18 hold a two-stroke lead over Team 16 as the contest continues this morning.

In addition to the main prize, the travel agents are also competing for sectionals such as 'Closest to the Pin', male and female, on holes four and 11, respectively. 'Men's Longest Drive' and 'Women's Longest Drive', will be decided on the ninth and 18th holes and winners announced at tonight's awards ceremony, which will have tourism minister Edmund Bartlett as guest speaker.

Miguel Arthurs, general manager, Sandals Golf and Country Club, said though the two-day event was all for fun and more of a "product-knowledge session", the travel agents' skills are not to be scoffed at.

"They are pretty good. Most of them end up three or four below par. It's a team event and it's the best shot that counts per hole, so what you find is that though they are from different regions in the United States, they all know each other and normally pick someone who can play," he pointed out.

With Jamaica recording what Bartlett has described as its best summer performance ever, 1.3m visitor arrivals between May and August, a 4.4 per cent increase over the same period last year, Arthurs said Jamaica's marketability as a golfing destination has positively impacted the overall numbers.

"We have seen the increase with the marketing of golf," he said. "The travel agents are here to play the course, not only for fun but also a product-knowledge session. As they play, they get to experience and are better able to sell the product through personal testimony," he pointed out, adding that Jamaica has been holding its own as a golfing destination though outnumbered in courses by some Caribbean countries.

"Jamaica is among the top three golfing destinations in the Caribbean Sandals Golf and Country Club was rated four out of five stars by Golf Digest. Outside of that, Jamaica, as a destination, outsells others in the Caribbean, so you get the best of both worlds," Arthurs explained.

The Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, especially its Junior Golfers Programme, benefits from the three travel agents tournaments staged annually.

This year's Sandals Foundation activity is 'Hitting the Green' for which the competitors pay US$10 for 'assistance' from the pros, on hole 11, for which the winning team will receive a gift certificate redeemable at the pro shop.