The future of Cayman golf seems
tied to the Ritz Carlton’s Blue Tip course. Its first successful tournament
last year has lead to more events in 2011.
A man that could end playing a big role
in local golf is Marcello Santi. The Italian native hosted the inaugural
Friends Invitational Pro-Am at the Blue Tip Golf Course at the Ritz-Carlton,
Grand Cayman last December. The two-day tournament attracted eight
international players in 2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship winner Daniel Chopras,
FedEx Cup contender Brian Davis, Danish Ryder cup hero Soren Hansen, 2010 Czech
Open champion Peter Hanson, 2010 Nordea Scandinavian Masters winner Richard
Johnson, American Junior Golf Association champion Jeehae Lee, five-time
European Tour champion Thomas Levet and 2009 PGA Tour money list player Greg
Santi, 41, already has the backing
of local government in terms of promoting golf here. His tournament is being
billed as part of Cayman’s sports tourism product and has support from
politicians such as the Premier McKeeva Bush, the Minister of Youth and Sports
Mark Scotland and Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott.
A professional golfer on the
European Tour, Santi states his goal is to raise golf’s profile in Cayman.
“I hope to do something more for
these islands,” Santi said. “With my tournament and golf knowledge I hope I
will increase golf tourism and Cayman’s tourism in general. With my tournament
the visitors were all successful guys on the professional circuit. They will
come back and influence the best to come here.”
Santi may not be a household name
in the sport but he has done quite well in golf. Since turning pro in 1992, his
career earnings are roughly $71,500. The 6’3, 176lb golfer has had strong showings
in years past at events like the Italian Open and the BMW Russian Open. His
last major tournament was the Parco di Monza Challenge in May 2006 where he
For all of that golfing pedigree,
what might help him most in his efforts here is his connection to Cayman. As
Santi states he has been coming to these shores for years and he recently
became a resident.
“I lived next to a golf course in
Milan so it was natural to play golf. As an Italian I knew the footballers too.
In the past everyone played golf with me. I’ve played with Ronaldo years ago
and also with Gianfranco Zola.
“My first time to Cayman was in
1992 on holiday. I was at the Hyatt and I played there at the Links. Back then
I played with Professional Golfers Association Tour players like Jack Nicklaus
and Greg Norman. I moved here three years ago. I always dreamt of coming here
and coaching. I came here with my wife and two girls. I love the people and the
island. My girls are now age six and eight and they’re in primary school.
“I’m still a golf pro and I travel
a lot in Europe. But I want to do something for this beautiful island. While
I’m here I’ll start with my tournament this year. I hope in the future it becomes
good and big.”
The emergence of Santi is
interesting considering the future of the North Sound Golf Club. A major story
in 2010, the club was given an extension to remain open last October by Dragon
Bay Developer Michael Ryan. Inevitably the plan is for the Blue Tip course,
which is currently nine holes, to incorporate some of the North Sound club to
become an 18-hole venue.
For Santi the sooner that
conversion happens the quicker he can move on hosting another tournament here.
“My dream is to host a PGA Tour
event here. Cayman definitely needs an 18-hole course for hosting such an
event. As far as pulling it off, I know everyone in the PGA and on the Tour so
that would not be a