Blue Tip tees up world beaters

World class golfers will be competing in a tournament over the weekend at the Blue Tip Golf Course.

The Ministerial Council for Tourism Development, the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways have partnered with local retired pro golfer, Marcello Santi to host the first Friends Invitational Pro-Am Golf Tournament in the Cayman Islands.

The two-day tournament is from 17-18 December at the Blue Tip, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and will feature eight international professional golfers.

The lineup includes Daniel Chopra, winner of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship on the US PGA Tour and Brian Davis, whose career highlights include two runner-up performances and a career-best 53rd place finish in the FedEx Cup standings.

Also playing is Soren Hansen, who in his 2008 season had the distinction of being only the second Dane behind Thomas Bjorn to play in the Ryder Cup. Richard Johnson, winner of two European Tour titles, including the Nordea Scandinavian Masters in July 2010 is in it.

Thomas Levet, winner of a record five European Tour titles when he captured the Open de Espana in 2009 and Peter Hanson, winner of four European Tour title with his victory in the 2010 Czech Open and part of the winning Ryder Cup Team 2010 are playing. Greg Owen who ranked 109th on the TOUR money list in 2009 and Jeehae Lee, a winner of the American Junior Golf Association and just earned her tour card, finishing eighth in the LPGA tour school. In addition to the pros, their families including young children are travelling with them.

Santi explained that the idea to host this Friends Pro-Am Invitational Tournament was born just a few months ago. However, with the commitment and generous contributions from several sponsors along with the support of the Department of Tourism, his dream of hosting the event has been realised and he is very excited that the tournament is happening at this time.

He added: “I am very excited. Excited to introduce my friends the pro-golfers to my new home the Cayman Islands and excited to introduce my special Caymanian friends to the pros and have the two groups play together on the golf course.

“My closest friends on the Island got involved with this event and agree that it holds tremendous possibilities for golf in the Cayman Islands and for enhancing our Islands’ tourism product. We hope to have an exciting tournament and that our visiting golfers will return again and again to Cayman.”

The Premier McKeeva Bush and chairman of the Ministerial Council for Tourism Cline Glidden are both pleased to partner with the organisers on what will become another signature event on the sports tourism calendar, one that will significantly contribute to the development of golf here and sports tourism in general.

Glidden said: “This event represents the kind of private sector-driven initiative that we are keen to see more of and pleased to be able to support. This Friends PRO-AM enhances our tourism efforts to establish the Cayman Islands as an emerging destination for international sporting events and locally, we see a strong interest from the financial services firms to get involved as sponsors. At the end of the tournament we intend to have 25 new international ambassadors and fans of the Cayman Islands.

“I am particularly pleased that Mr. Santi has arranged for The David Leadbetter Golf Academy to provide an interactive learning session for junior golfers, between the ages of 6 to 12 at the North Sound Club,” said Mark Scotland, Minister of Sports.

Friends Pro-Am Invitational Golf Tournament is sponsored by NCB Homes, Deloitte, Red Sail Sports, Magnum Jewelers, Queensgate, Dolphin Discovery, Crighton Properties, Diamonds International, Audemars Piguet and Ogier.

Acting Director of Tourism, Shomari Scott also expressed his delight that the Department of Tourism was presented with this opportunity to host the PGA players, who are particularly well known in the European circuit.

“Events such as this golf tournament perfectly aligns with the Cayman Islands brand and as such, we anticipate that the tournament will be particularly attractive to visitors in our target demographic. We look forward to a successful inaugural event and are hopeful that this will be the first of many such tournaments, year after year.”

As well as playing, visiting golfers will be treated to several signature activities including Stingray City/Sandbar trips, blue marlin fishing and a host of dinner events at select restaurants. The event culminates with a prize-giving ceremony and farewell dinner on the beach at the Ritz-Carlton on Saturday.

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