Golf on Cayman Islands has been viewed more of a leisure activity than a serious sport – until now.
The success of the Cayman teams at last week’s HSBC 52nd Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships at the North Sound Club shows that the small band of dedicated golfers are earning the island a lot of respect in the region.
Robert Woods is President of the Cayman Islands Golf Association and was a member of the five-man Hoerman Cup side that came second in the competition. To put that into perspective, Cayman teams usually finish in the bottom three of the 10-nation tournament. This time, only the mighty Puerto Rico beat them.
After years of frustration Woods was ecstatic. It was also his moment to put Cayman’s detractors in their place.
‘The whole event was a major success both on and off the golf course,’ he said.
‘Off the course, I was approached by fellow golf association presidents, officials, players and supporters from all countries, and am delighted to say that each and everyone commented on the fantastic organisation of the event and the top quality facilities provided.
‘A great illustration of this was on the last morning of the tournament when the president of the Caribbean Golf Association, Ambrose Gouthro, saw that we were having problems with one of the live scoring monitors.
‘Jokingly he said: ‘At last…something has gone wrong this week!’ Less than a minute later the monitors were working again!’
The visitors were based at the Marriott Hotel which was fully appreciated. Woods said: ‘They all said it was a first rate hotel with excellent amenities and of course, it has one of the best beaches in the world on its doorstep.’
Transport was provided by The Tour Company and there were no hitches there. A choice of dinner was provided by Casanova’s, Decker’s, Mezza, Yoshi and Legends, all quality restaurants that were enjoyed by the guests.
‘One thing that was emphasised by all participants at the event was that the level of service provided in all areas was second to none,’ Woods added. ‘The owners and employees of these companies should be proud to have promoted the Cayman Islands in such a positive manner. I thank you all.
‘A big thanks is due to our key title sponsor HSBC and the Platinum level sponsors. Team uniforms and other support were provided by Ogier, communications and tents by Cable and Wireless, generous financial support from Island Heritage, and a bespoke website incorporating a great live scoring system was created by Cayman Free Press (www.caycompass.com/golf)
‘Thanks also to all our other sponsors – without your collective help and generosity, hosting an event of this complexity and magnitude would simply not have been possible.
‘The North Sound Club was in perfect condition a real credit to Bruce Tucker, the course superintendent.
‘Deep rough and fast greens protected the course in the absence of the usual strong winds.
‘Many thanks to the owner, Michael Ryan, for allowing us to use the course and congratulations and a huge thank you to Davy Ebanks, general manager, Sean Wilson director of golf and all their staff at the North Sound Club, many of whom worked long hours to ensure the event’s smooth running.’
Caymanian and expatriate volunteers ranged in age from nine to 90 and worked efficiently. They were led by Paul Woodhouse, Bob Slatter, Tracy Moore, Judy VanLiere, Emma Woodhouse and her team ambassadors, Ross McDonough and his army of volunteers.
Many of the helpers stood for hours in the hot sun marshalling traffic and spotting golf balls.
Woods added: ‘A special mention of thanks also to the team of Red Cross volunteers headed by Hemant Balgobin. They thankfully, were able to remain behind the scenes for the most part but provided invaluable medical assistance when required.’
Cayman’s success came from a strong team spirit, Woods said. ‘The team was guided by coach Kevin Mumford. Most of the team worked very hard before this event, putting in long hours of practice, bonding as a group and developing a sound strategy.
‘The results speak for themselves. The super senior team of Don Stewart and Andy Newton were competitive and made many friends; the senior team of Robert ‘Chilly’ Chilman and Stephen Heal finished in third place; the mid-amateurs Colin Mackay and Trent Riggins finished in third place; and the ladies team of Samantha Widmer, Orapin ‘Nitty’ Howe and Siobhan Ribbins finished in fourth place. Well done to all of you.’
The best achievement of all was the men’s open team of Joel Dodson, Ali Hall-Jones, Michael Wight, Woods and Johnny Widmer who finished in second place in an immensely competitive field surprising many of the bigger countries along the way.
Individually over the four competitive days, Samantha had the third lowest ladies total, Dodson the fifth lowest men’s total, Hall-Jones the second most number of birdies, and Woods the most pars.
‘In order to put these achievements into perspective we must look at some of the countries that the Cayman Islands team beat.
‘Dominican Republic (population over eight million), Jamaica (three million), Trinidad and Tobago (1.3 million), the list goes on.
‘Some of these countries have more golf players than the Cayman Islands have total population!
‘Most have local golf programmes that we still dream about. This success in my opinion is one of the greatest sporting achievements by any Cayman Islands team in our country’s history.
‘Perhaps more importantly is how this tournament has proved that golf is very important here. The camaraderie between Caymanians and expatriates was unbridled.
‘The revenue generated by our guests was substantial. The Cayman Islands were promoted as a friendly country with excellent facilities and first class service standards.
‘The country showed that we have first rate facilities in the fastest growing sport in the world.
‘The vast majority of amateur golfers around the world are average men and ladies and we must strive to ensure that Cayman has at least one affordable first class golf facility such as the North Sound Club as we plan for our future.
‘Golf is immensely important for tourism, for our community and for the development of our youth into positive, disciplined individuals who see the benefits of working together to achieve our goals.
‘To all involved please accept my gratitude for exceeding all expectations and showing that working together great things can be achieved.’