Martin to defend Pro title

REIGNING CHAMPION Ben Martin will return to defend his Pro title when the 114th edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Open tees off from March 24-27 at St Andrew’s Golf Club, Moka, Maraval.

And two-time ICC T20 World Cup-winning captain for the West Indies, Darren Sammy, and even former CWI president Dave Cameron could line up in the competition.

However, the Trinidad and Tobago Golf Association’s (TTGA) Week of Golf actually kicks off on March 19 with an opening ceremony at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Resort. At that same venue on March 20, the TTGA will host a Pro/Am event, then on March 21 TTGA president Wayne Baptiste and company will entertain sponsors, executives and friends in Tobago.

The Trinidad leg of the Week of Golf begins with a Pro/Am on March 22 and with two Puerto Rican officials delivering a workshop on the rules of golf on March 23. Then the main competition tees off from March 24-27.

Baptiste, a former national player, advised that tournament organisers expect the quota of 135 players to be fully subscribed way before the March 16 deadline for entries.

After a Covid-19 enforced hiatus in 2020 before a locally-based tournament in 2021, relaxed travel restrictions now allowed by the Ministry of Health and the Government this year will accommodate foreign golfers making their return to the competition, one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

Baptiste advised however the tournament, one of several to be used to gain points towards national team selection for international tournaments like the Hoerman Cup later this year, will be conducted under “safe zone” parameters, requiring golfers and spectators to observe the required health and safety protocols and guidelines.

Golfers are expected to hail from the Bermuda, the Bahamas, USA, Canada (including potentially former Open winner Dustin Risdon), Puerto Rico and even from Dubai. Additionally, more will travel from Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis and even South America.

At the launch of the event yesterday, at the main competition site at the St Andrew’s Golf Club, Baptiste and his executive in the company of Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) representative Justin Latapy-George, displayed their sponsorship bounty with the Prime Minister’s Sport and Culture Fund presenting the biggest cheque for $250,000.

The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) donated $150,000 while the First Citizens Group and Guardian Life of the Caribbean of the Guardian Group, sponsored to the tune of $100,000 each.

Niquan Energy donated the first prize in the Pro division (US$15,000). Other sponsors include the Kenson Group of Companies, Kee Chanona Ltd, Paria Fuel Trading, Kubicon Ltd, and Crystal Water, the tournament’s water sponsor.

Besides the representatives of the sponsors on hand, the presidents of the golf clubs were also present including Millennium Lakes, Ste Madeleine, Pointe-a-Pierre, St Andrews and Brechin Castle.

Baptiste said the TT Open has over the years led to the development of golf in the country. “It is not only seen as a tournament to see who is the best golfer, but one of the driving factors for the development of golf especially in junior golf in T&T,” he noted.

Baptiste explained that the TTGA is pushing for the expansion of the base of golf in the country by embarking on programmes with schools situated in the vicinity of the current golf courses and driving towards youth and administrative development and proper governance.“We want to create the ability to excel and be the number one NGO in T&T in 2022 and beyond,” Baptiste said.

Within the TT Open, the President’s Cup, which features two players from each country, will also be contested. The five participating countries to date are Barbados, Jamaica, the Bahamas and St Kitts & Nevis.

This article was published originally in the Trinidad Express