PGA Tour could soon return to Jamaica - Chin
JAMAICA Golf Association president Peter Chin yesterday said the inaugural staging of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica BMW Jamaica Classic next month is critical to the island returning to hosting major championships.
PGA TOUR Latinoamerica sanctioned its first official event in Jamaica, June 12-18, the inaugural Jamaica Classic, which expands the first half of the 2017 schedule to nine official events.
All set to become the 17th country ever to welcome an official PGA TOUR Latinoamerica event, Jamaica has had its share of top professional golf events in the past. The Jamaica Open, an unofficial PGA TOUR event played from 1958 to 1963, featured Latin American competitors, including 1961 runner-up Roberto De Vicenzo.
The tournament will be played at Cinnamon Hill Golf Course in Montego Bay. Originally designed by Hank Smedley in 1969, the 6,828-yard par-72 was redesigned by Robert Von Hagge & Rick Baril in 2001.
"This PGA tour is the start. It is very competitive business, so we have to prove ourselves," Chin said during yesterday's launch at ATL Autobahn, Orchard Road, St Andrew.
In 1963, Tryall Golf Club, Hanover, hosted Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, a series of televised matches between golf pros and the very first professional golf competitions. The hour-long broadcasts followed the players around the green, chatting to them between shots and talking about the host country.
During the 1980s and early '90s Tryall became a regular fixture on the LPGA calendar, hosting not only the LPGA-Senior PGA Mazda Championship but the LPGA Jamaica Classic too.
Then came the Johnnie Walker World Championship. Held at Tryall for five consecutive years, the Johnnie Walker was a prestigious invitational featuring the world's highest-earning players. So the likes of Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Fred Couples all played at Tryall, creating an event of supreme quality with players rarely seen outside of the majors.
However, the tournament, held from 1991 to 1995 and intended to be an official world championship event to rival the four majors, was terminated after just five stagings.
Past winners of the Johnnie Walker Golf Championship included two time champions Fred Couples (1991, 1995), Nick Faldo (1992), Larry Mize (1993) and Ernie Els (1994).
Chin is confident Jamaica could again start hosting similar tournaments in the next five years.
"We had the lead back in the 1990s so, hopefully, within the next five years, we will be in the PGA," he said.
Featuring a field of 144 players from more than 20 countries, the Jamaica Classic will be played immediately after the Puerto Plata DR Open. As the final event of the first half of the schedule, the Jamaica Classic will provide PGA TOUR Latinoamerica members one last chance to earn Order of Merit points before the mid-season reshuffle.