Young swingers hit the links

Juniors have had much of the focus on the Cayman Islands golf scene in recent weeks.

The youngsters in the 15 and under age bracket have benefitted from a junior programme staged at the North Sound Golf Club. Director of Golf at North Sound Jason Deerwester served as chief organizer with help from a cadre of volunteers and Cayman Islands Golf Association members.

Deerwester states the initiative, which saw its final October session last Tuesday, is about fostering new talent.

“When I got to this island 11 months ago there was a need for children to golf,” Deerwester said. “We announced the first session in February and have built up a successful programme with over 90 kids coming through at one time or another. We can accommodate up to 35 kids per day with Tuesdays aimed at children age 6-9 and Wednesdays for the 10-15 age group.

“With the help of my assistant Robert Chilman, we come up with a plan each day of what fun things we can do with the kids. We focus on full swing, chipping, and putting. I am very proud of the programme I have developed and am able to teach the kids of Grand Cayman. We have a good following of kids that come each session and have so much fun in the hour they are here.”

A number of notable names in local golf have been present at the sessions. One of the stalwarts is Emily Ribbins, 16, arguably Cayman’s top junior female player. Ribbins was part of the Cayman women’s team that competed at the 2011 Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships and finished third. Ribbins and company have helped the kids with the various facets of the game. Deerwester states their support has been a positive.

“I would not be able to have this many kids without the help of volunteers. Wally Clark and Adam Nashed have been here since the beginning. This past October session golf association president Joel Dodson and Emily Ribbins have helped out as well. Recently Samantha Widmer helped out.”

One of the tools Deerwester and company are utilizing is the Starting New At Golf golf kit. Purchased by the golf association earlier this year, SNAG is designed to introduce beginners to golf fundamentals in a safe way. Each kit contains specially designed plastic golf clubs, rubber golf balls and various other teaching accessories at a cost of approximately US$2,150. SNAG, recognized in the US as a National Association of Sport and Physical Education certified programme, is slated to be used by the golf association in local primary and secondary schools, free of charge, as part of their physical education classes.

Deerwester, who met Professional Golfers Association legend Mark McNulty at last month’s Red Cross golf tournament, states SNAG is part of his vision of building junior golf in Cayman.

“Our next fall session will run the end of November right up to Christmas. My goal is to create a junior golf league so we can continue to teach and help these kids improve at golf. Getting out on the course and playing the game is a big step and goal each of them can achieve.”