Samantha Widmer is the queen of Cayman golf, having won her eighth national title last week.
At 28, Widmer is consistently improving and could go on dominating the local scene for years if she remains focused.
There is no chance of letting up, though. After her latest victory at the North Sound course, she said, “Golf is a passion for me, and so every time I go out to compete, I try and put my best effort into playing as well as possible. This year was no exception and I was very happy to see they moved tees back to the whites. The yardage is now more comparable with our international tournaments and presented another way that the Cayman Islands Golf Association is consistently trying to encourage new challenges for us golfers.
“I was very happy with the win and it makes me proud once again to know that my hard work all year on the course, in the gym and with my mental game is paying off.”
Widmer started playing golf at age 10 with her younger brothers Johnny and Jack, and it became a real passion when she was 12 and competed in her first international tournament for Cayman.
“My next door neighbor at the time, Bob Slatter, started all three of us in golf by lending us clubs and taking us to various sporting events,” she said.
“He is one of the main reasons I am in the position I am today, and I cannot thank him enough for his dedication and hard work over the years.”
What does she enjoy about it the most? “What is there not to love? I’ve been able to compete on a collegiate tour, travel to multiple countries, build friendships with people from other cultures, raise money for charity, mentor junior golfers, establish a passion for myself and gain confidence in my ability as a young woman.”
She added that the most enjoyable part is that it is an outlet in her life that never judges her and is extremely challenging.
There have been many highlights, including National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 Southern Conference at Elon University; competing on the Cayman Islands national team for 16 years, including juniors and amateur women’s golf; winning the Cayman Islands national title (2005, 2007, 2010-15); and being ranked first in the Caribbean for junior and amateur ladies four times.
She also won bronze medals at the Island Games in Aland, Sweden (2009) and Bermuda (2013) and won a coveted America’s trophy at the Junior British Open (2001). Widmer would love to try and qualify for a Ladies Professional Golf Association or professional women’s golf tour event now that she has completed her academic certifications.
She is immersed in golf in her day job too, as director of sales and marketing for Ironwood, a new master-planned community in East End that will include a signature Arnold Palmer Golf Course and resort.
Of her sporting heroes, the locals she admires most are the Fraser brothers, Shaune and Brett, (swimmers) “who I am consistently amazed by,” and sprinter Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens.
She also admires golfers Ernie Els and Tiger Woods “who do so many wonderful things for charity and have pushed the boundaries of the golfing world with their talents and love for the game.”
Widmer feels there is a lot of sporting talent in Cayman, but there is not always the financial means or access to resources to take athletes to the next level.
She feels that for a small island, Cayman has produced some remarkable kids and adults out of various programs and sport is increasingly being used to gain an education or full-time career.
“There are so many unsung heroes that have put time and effort into making the development of youth athletics a priority and we need to continue to fund these programs,” Widmer said.
“Our youth should be given the opportunity to make sports a career, whether it is as a professional athlete, coach or mentor.
“There is always room for more leaders in our community, yet I do not always feel as though it is thought of as seriously as a job in the corporate world.
“There are already a number of Caymanian athletes that have gone away to compete at NCAA level and can be used as excellent role models and information providers for our current younger generation.”
She would love to see more kids playing golf, especially at a young age.
“They say ‘business is done on the golf course’ and in many ways it is. You build friendships, trust, the ability to see a person outside of their element and learn the ins and outs of their personalities.”
The Cayman Islands Golf Association runs a program for youngsters. The organization’s hard work and funding has been a vital stepping stone in getting more kids into the game, and they do not always receive the recognition they deserve, she feels. CIGA is trying to engage more adults in the sport and raise golf’s profile in Cayman.
With a new course being built in East End, along with improvements and growth in the golf community, Widmer hopes Cayman can evolve into a major golf destination.
It is one of the few sports that brings major investors and developers to Cayman, she said “and I think we should focus our efforts on its economic benefits.”
Retirees are an especially important sector of investors because they are looking to live a portion of each year in a safe country, spend their hard-earned money and use home-grown labor, she said.
“Cayman is the ideal place for this as we offer a world-class product and high living standards that can be found few places in the world.”
Hosting sporting events that encourage new visitors and long-term stay-overs would be the ideal way to improve sporting tourism revenue, Widmer feels.
Other islands in the Caribbean are benefiting from these types of events and Cayman should have an equal opportunity to be an event host, she added.
“Continual growth of sports such as tennis, volleyball, swimming and many more have started to emerge, but I still think we have a ways to go on the size and impact that these events make.
“I commend the organizers thus far for their continued efforts and hope we can one day hold a major event such as the Island Games, Pan Am Games or a professional golf tour event.”
Her next major golf event is the Island Games in June in Jersey, her fourth time attending the Games.
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are leading the next generation of golf champions. Widmer likes the way it is evolving.
“I actually think we are going to see a wave of new players on tour, including many NCAA golfers and new talents.
“The sport is starting to change when it come to competitive golf because it is more accessible to a greater number of people.”
She feels there will be a greater number of golfers from Asia who will seriously challenge the North Americans because of the strong work ethic and determination.
She has mixed feelings about where Woods may end up in the future. “I sometimes think that Tiger has had his glory days and there is the possibility that he may not ever bounce back to the top golfer he always was.
“However, his dedication to the game, pure talent and all the doors he has opened for minors, juniors and females is truly remarkable. I don’t believe that I would have had as many opportunities if Tiger was not competing. He will always be a true hero in my book,”
She added that for anyone who wants to be at the top of their game athletically, it is difficult and takes an extreme amount of hard work.
“I have spent many hours training in gyms, on golf ranges, studying and it was a struggle at times.
“There will always be someone that works harder, finishes faster, achieves greater, which means you have to stay ahead of the game.
“Your coaches want the best for you, so listen to them. Your family and friends support your success
, so thank them. “But above all else, believe in yourself and your ability to be the best you can be. Don’t ever give up on your goal because you will regret it later in life.”