Kid golfers so talented

The Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships at the North Sound Club saw many brilliant teenagers competing with the adults.

The region is awash with plenty of aspiring Tiger Woods’. Here are three to watch out for in the future.

Ben Martin

Ben Martin is only just 18 yet he scored the course record at North Sound with a 64 on the first day. The Trinidadian looks a certainty to break into the upper echelons of the pros.

‘I’ve played here before, as a junior, just once, seven years ago when I was 11,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t really rely on my memory of the course because it was so long ago and the course has changed, partly because of the hurricane.’

Martin’s phenomenal round had seasoned amateurs looking on in envy yet he remained modest about it. ‘It was down to a bit of everything really, patience, luck and just playing the right game. I just let it happen.’

Martin knows exactly what path he wants to pursue in his beloved sport. ‘I want to play collegiate golf for two or three years then after turn pro and play on the circuit.’

His family moved to England from Trinidad only four months ago.

‘England is nice. A culture shock because it’s different but I’m enjoying it.

‘The weather hasn’t been a problem so far because it’s summer. But winter time I won’t be there! I’ll be either in the Caribbean or the States playing tournaments.’

Martin is from Maraval and used to play at Moka Golf Club. He started playing golf at five because the family lived on a golf course and he’s played competitively since the age of eight, making his senior debut at 14.

‘I don’t know if it’s possible to aspire to get to Tiger Woods’ level but I want to be as good as I can be. I take it serious and practice as hard as I can.’

Jonathan Newnham

Jonathan Newnham is only 13 yet he played like a veteran for the Jamaican team on the first day, shooting a 74, better than the other four.

Added to the fact that this is his first senior tournament, that makes his debut quite remarkable. This boy is destined for big things.

Like many golf prodigies, Newnham was born into the sport as both his father, Michael and grand-dad, Mark, were top players.

The Kingston-based youngster plays at the luxurious Caymanas Golf Club, just outside the capital off, a four handicap. Tall for his age, he will soon be a six footer and whacking balls down the fairway accordingly.

He also enjoys tennis but it’s golf that holds his most attention. Newnham won the Under-13 Caribbean Championships in Trinidad last month by a whopping 12 shots.

No novice nerves there, he has been competing in them since the age of eight and is a seasoned campaigner around the region having competed in Antigua, Bahamas, St Croix and Puerto Rico.

Newnham was fourth in the national trials in May, another awe-inspiring fact considering Jamaica has a huge golfing culture.

‘I think I can be a pro but I know it takes a lot of dedication,’ Newnham says with no hint of false modesty.

He admires Tiger Woods, of course, but realistically aspires to the level of Trinidad-born Stephen Ames who is a world class golfer who generally finishes in the top 20 of major tournaments but has never won one.

Nevertheless, Ames is the Caribbean’s best player by a long chalk and a millionaire to boot. That will do Jonathan nicely.

‘I’d like to be like Stephen,’ he smiles. ‘My strengths are my iron game but I need to improve my short game.’

‘Jonathan is good beyond his years,’ says Teddy Richards, the Jamaica team manager. ‘He’s long off tee and good around the greens and on the greens.

‘He’s being taught by the pro Jason Lopez who teaches the ‘stack and tilt’ swing. It’s not the traditional swing but Jonathan has caught on quickly.

‘He’s had three events in the last six weeks, winning the Caribbean juniors, competing in the British Open juniors where he didn’t place and played in a Florida tournament and in his age group was tenth out of 200. He was only one over par after three rounds.

‘My feeling is he is going to be world class. Jonathan has shot a 63 at Constant Springs Golf Course. He is very capable.’

Richards puts Newnham’s speedy progress down to his supportive parents, especially his father and the fact that they ensure he is academically sound.

‘I know kids Jonathan started playing with who have left golf and become swimmers because he was so much better than them. Kids of that age have a hard time maintaining their enthusiasm in anything. He is pretty good at keeping at that interest.’

Payton Wight

Payton Wight is only 14 but he can boast achieving something that some golfers have never done even after 60 years of trying – hit a hole in one.

That is any golfers dream shot and the little St Ignatius pupil did it in May on the North Sound’s fifth hole, from around 160 yards.

‘I’ve only been playing seriously a little while,’ Payton says. ‘And I’d only just got my own clubs.’

Payton was playing with dad Michael at the time and both could not believe it. Michael has still to achieve that – and he’s 43!

Michael must be feeling left out because brother Philip did it last year on the same course.

At least Payton did not have to do the traditional thing of buying everyone in the clubhouse a drink. Hopefully, no one will wait until he’s 18 and demand one.

Golf is Payton’s top sport – at the moment – although the Wight family are best known for being excellent cricketers.

Michael, Philip and twin brothers David and Christopher have all played for Cayman and their club side By-Rite dominated the local scene for years. Michael was in the Stanford team in Antigua in January and Philip just missed out on selection.

‘I would like to be a golf pro,’ Payton said.

‘He’ll have to put in a lot of work then,’ Michael said. ‘He could look at getting a scholarship. At the moment he really likes sport but he’s not really sticking to one.’

Michael is the only Caymanian to have represented his country in four sports.

Besides golf and cricket, tennis and football have seen him don the national colours too. Payton might be just as talented. He has an interest in football, cricket, tennis, baseball and used to be a keen skateboarder.

For now, he insists, golf is his main focus. He watched dad compete for Cayman in the Caribbean Championships last week where Payton was one of the junior helpers.

‘Watching the golfers here has been great because it helps me to learn the rules and how they play their shots and what they do when they’re in trouble.’