Defending champs set to tee off

As Cayman golf prepares for its next major event, a pair of top golfers are eyeing more kudos.

The 19th annual Cayman Islands Amateur Golf Championships will be played this weekend, 12-13 May. Among those eager to swing away at the North Sound Golf Club are reigning male and female champions Joel Dodson and Samantha Widmer.

Widmer, 25, states the competition is great preparation for international duty.

“I will be defending my title and competing for a spot on the national team to the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships in August,” Widmer said. “It is a tournament that I have attended every year, since the age of 12, so I always look forward to the team spirit, spending time with old friends and competing for the Cayman Islands.

“Representing your country is an amazing experience and something that has brought a lot of fulfilment to my life.”

As Widmer states, the tournament is being used to select the Cayman national team for the 54th Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships in St. Kitts this August. Four of the six qualifying rounds for this year’s team have already been completed, with the two rounds of the Cayman championship being the fifth and sixth qualifying rounds. This year’s national team will be sponsored by KPMG.

In 2011, some 56 golfers participated at North Sound. George Christie won the seniors division after shooting scores of 80 and 79 and Bob Slatter claimed the super senior crown with scores of 83 and 79. Widmer was the ladies champion after shooting 73 and 74 while Dodson nabbed the men’s title with scores of 70 and 75.

Dodson states a repeat will be far from easy.

“As for the tournament, I’m really looking forward to it,” Dodson said. “Michael Wight is definitely the favourite heading into this year’s tournament. He shot 66 a few weeks ago in the last qualifier in very difficult conditions, so look for him to do well. There’s also a new player on the island, Brian Ross, who is a very good player and should be up there as well.

“On the women’s side, Isabel Lawson and Emily Ribbins will definitely give Sam a run for her money this year.”

Tournament prizes will be awarded based on age categories and handicap levels. All participants must be members of the Cayman Islands Golf Association, at a nominal membership fee of $50.

Entries to the tournament close on Thursday, 10 May. Players have the option of teeing off in either the morning or afternoon on Saturday, with all players teeing off in the afternoon on tournament Sunday. Food and refreshments will be served in conjunction with the awards ceremony following Sunday’s round. Entries can be made online via the association’s website or at the North Sound Club pro-shop.

It will be interesting to see how sharp the defending champs are on the greens. All go in at various stages of their careers with Widmer, for example, balancing other commitments.

The South Sound native, who is a Dart employee, spoke about her life outside of the golf course.

“I have recently started a new job and I am looking forward to fulfilling my career goals and aspirations as a young Caymanian business woman. I have also been given an amazing opportunity to be a part of the Young Caymanian Leadership Awards. It has always been a dream of mine to pass on the knowledge and competitive experience I have gained as an athlete, given to me by individuals throughout my life.

“I am very blessed by the chance to join other YCLA alumni in providing our youth with the motivation, resources and encouragement they need to follow their dreams.”

News of the tournament comes after developer Michael Ryan extended the life-span of North Sound. With Cayman’s only 18-hole golf course remaining open for the foreseeable future, many in the local golf community are relieved. Among them are Dodson and Cayman Islands Golf Association President Jason Perras.

“As for the golf course, it’s nice to hear that it is going to stay open for a while,” Dodson said. “Personally, I’m really looking forward to hearing what types of improvements they are going to make to the facility.”

“This is our biggest tournament of the year and it promises to be our most exciting event as well,” Perras said. “We traditionally have 60-70 players competing over the weekend in various age and handicap divisions. We had a playoff in our seniors division last year, which was the first playoff that we’ve had in ages. All divisions seem to be wide open this year, so who knows what will happen.

“It is nice to know that the future of golf in Cayman is becoming clearer. With that in mind, we have been conducting junior clinics on Tuesdays and Wednesdays over the past year or so at North Sound. With the assistance of Jason Deerwester and Robert Chilman (the golf professionals at North Sound), the clinics have been very well received with between 50-60 kids at each session.”

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