Four former champions are going head-to-head in one of the island’s biggest golf tournaments - the 2017 Royal Bank/ RBC Classic - which tees-off on Saturday at the Barbados Golf Club.
Male and female players have been fine-tuning their strokes all week and close to 100 players will tee-up , in seven divisions, for the 36-hole tournament which concludes on Sunday.
In the absence of No.1 player James Johnson, defending champion Carlsen Leacock could still be hardpressed to repeat this year , as he has not been in top form and must stave off the likes of 2008 champion Simon Proverbs, 2010 champion Stephen Layne , 2013 winner Dawn Bispham and competent veterans Julian Jordan and former Jamaica player Mark Blakeley.
“I’m coming to play …I never run away from competition,” said Leacock, who has been dealing with injuries in recent months.
Young Barbados players Iz Hustler, Xzavier Wiggins , Oaziah Layne and Maurice Forde are also expected to make their presence felt among the contenders in the men’s championship but 24 year-old Proverbs could be the man to watch.
Boasting good form in recent months, after leading the Barbados Open in August for two days before stumbling on the last day, Proverbs has the Durants course literally as his backyard and also has the added incentive of being a staff member of sponsors, Royal Bank.
“I know the course very well and I want to win. I’m playing a bit more this year … my form is pretty good and I am looking forward to performing well in the Classic, ” said Proverbs.
Bispham, the 2013 champion and a 2017 Hoerman Cup player, has also been in good form and registering regular 70’s over 18 holes but must mentally prepare to fight-off past and present national players.
Jordan thinks his experience could be beneficial. "It will be competitive but I’m looking for a good start and then position myself for a good finish. I always look forward to this weekend of great golf and I also want to applaud RBC for helping to develop this tournament into a Tier 1 event ,” said Jordan.
Among the women, teenagers Alyssa Inniss-Gittens and Emily Odwin are expected to renew their emerging rivalry and dominate the women’s championship which will also see a number of veteran Barbados players in contention.
Inniss-Gittens, who was a convincing winner in the Barbados Open in August at Royal Westmoreland, is favoured to continue her improved showing but must remain consistent to turn back the ambitions of Odwin and experienced contenders Julia Stephenson, Helen Foster and Gail Fields.
A number of other rivalries are brewing across divisions and one of the most competitive catergories over the weekend will be the senior men’s division where Barbados players Robert Piggott and Michael Haynes , will be tested by consistent players Bill Weir , England-based Richard Payne and previous Open champion Ivan Codrington.
Former BGA Presidents, Birchmore Griffith, Cally Boyea and Hadley Byer are also in the mix and among the favoured players in their divisions.
Players from Barbados, Canada, England and Trinidad are contesting the two-day RBC Classic and BGA President Trevor Tasker reported that everything was in place for an exciting weekend.
"This is a major tournament on the annual calendar of the BGA and an important one for players seeking to qualify for national selection as well as for those seeking to add points to their international amateur world rankings. We have a good competitive field and we are hoping for good weather over the two days,” said Tasker.
The November 25 and 26 tournament is also being co-sponsored by Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank and Trust , who for the fourth year are awarding nearest-to-the-pin prizes to successful players on all par-3 holes at the Barbados Golf Club.
Veteran Barbados player Julian Jordan starts among the contenders in the 2017 RBC Classic.
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