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US$70,000 prize tag for Jamaica Open
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Over US$70,000 in prize money will be at stake when the 45th staging of the Jamaica Golf Open Championship unfolds at the scenic Half Moon Golf Course between next Wednesday and Saturday, with an expected 70 professionals and 40 amateurs.
Best that can be
Speaking at the launch of the championship in Montego Bay yesterday, Wayne Chai, president of the Jamaica Golf Association (JGA), said that while Jamaica cannot afford a Professional Golf Association (PGA)-style event, his association is committed to making the Jamaica Open the best it can be.
"While Jamaica cannot host a PGA tournament, which can cost approximately US$7 million to stage, we are willing to work hard to make the Jamaica Open, which cost about J$7 million to stage, the best it can be," said Chai.
The Jamaica Open, which will be played on the last three days following the opening day Pro-Am, will be a 54-hole strokeplay championship. The Pro-Am will be played over 18-holes.
"Entries have been a little bit slow in coming but we are expecting to see an increase in the upcoming days because this is an attractive tournament," said tournament chairman, Gordon Hutchinson, noting that "the prize package ranks with major tournaments in the Caribbean".
The breakdown of the prize package reads as follows: first - US$15,000; second - US$10,000; third - US$6,000; fourth - US$4,000; fifth - US$3,000 and sixth -- US$2, 600.
Looking at the importance of the tournament to the development of golf locally, chairman of the PGA of Jamaica, Orville Marshall, said the tournament is extremely important as it offers local golfers an opportunity to play under conditions similar to what entails on the world circuit.
"It offers the Jamaica players (an opportunity) to play over three days, which is the best way to test their skills under conditions that you will find on the world stage," Marshall said.
In addition to bringing high-quality golf to Jamaica, the event, which is sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Half Moon Rose Hall Jamaica and the Sports Development Foundation (SDF), it is poised to generate significant income from Jamaica.
Not keeping pace
According to a JGA release, this year's tournament is expected to bring an estimated J$14 million to the economy, while local caddies are expected to earn approximately $800,000.
Despite Jamaica's awesome potential as a top-flight golfing destination for tourism, David Mais, chairman of the SDF, does not believe the development of golf is keeping pace with other sports.
"Regrettably, we are not doing well in golf as in other sports and that is due mostly to lack of support and not the absence of good talent," said Mais. "We need to start putting some proper investment in golf."