By Bernard Babb
The island’s top players and several from overseas are going head-to-head over the next three days in the 2017 Sagicor Barbados Open Golf championships which tee-off Friday morning at Royal Westmoreland and Apes Hill Clubs.
Players from Trinidad and Tobago, host country Barbados, St. Kitts , the United Kingdom, USA and Canada are contesting the Sagicor Barbados Open championships, over 54 holes, and exciting play is anticipated across seven divisions.
Defending champion James Johnson will be the man to beat in the men’s championship flight , where some of his main rivals have been showing good form in recent weeks and are seeking to topple him.
“I had a tough battle with Simon (Proverbs) and Julian (Jordan) last year but I’m in pretty good form and looking forward to the challenge after playing in the Caribbean Championships,” said Johnson, who is seeking his 14th Barbados Open title.
Johnson, who finished among the top six players in individual strokeplay at the Hoerman Cup tournament in the Dominican Republic, also reported that he would love to set a new course record of 12-under-par over the 54 holes at Westmoreland
Among his main rivals will be fellow Barbados players Simon Proverbs, Dawn Bispham, Carlsen Leacock , and Scott Stollmeyer , as well as Trinidadian Johnathan Millien and Raymond Percival of St.Kitts. Leading Barbados juniors Iz Hustler and Xzavier Wiggins , who also played on the senior Hoerman Cup team this year, are also expected to challenge the more experienced players.
Last year, the contest for the championship was reduced to two days after the first day was rained out and Johnson was forced to dig deep over the last three holes to edge past both Proverbs and fellow Barbados player Julian Jordan, who will be absent this year. Johnson sank a birdie on the final hole to post the day’s best 72 , for a 36-hole gross 146, while Jordan and Proverbs both shot 74 and ended joint second with a gross 147.
Both the men’s championship and women’s championship will tee-off at Westmoreland at 9.50 am, along with the senior men’s division (over 50 years) , where veteran Bill Weir is seeking to defend his crown.
Among the women, Alyssa Inniss-Gittens and Emily Odwin have been working hard on their games and are expected in a keen tussle for the title. Both represented Barbados in the George Teale Cup at the 2017 Caribbean Championships where Barbados finished fourth in the team standings.
Other contenders among the senior men are Trinidadian Wayne Baptiste , former champions Robert Piggott , Ivan Codrington and Michael Haynes , Igna Smart and former West Indies cricketer Desmond Haynes.
Competition in the men's first flight ( 10-18 handicaps) will be played at Apes Hill, as well as the men's second flight (19-24 handicap) under the Stableford format, and the expectedly competitive Super Seniors (over 60 years) where Richie Alleyne will be seeking to defend his title.
Alleyne won last year with a 54-hole gross 253 but could be hard-pressed this year in a line-up that includes former Association Presidents , Birchmore Griffith and Cally Boyea, and steady Trinidadian Monty Chapman.
Barbados Golf Association (BGA) President Tasker said all systems were in place for the 34th edition of the Barbados Open, which is regarded as the island’s national championships, and they were looking forward to an exciting weekend of golf.
Said Tasker: “ We have a quality field for the Sagicor Barbados Open and the courses are in good shape. Weather permitting, everything is in place for some really competitive golf over three days at both Royal Westmoreland and Apes Hill”.