You missed the opportunity to cheer these dedicated youth golfers from nine Caribbean islands this summer when The Virgin Islands Golf Federation hosted the Caribbean Golf Association Junior Championships at Carambola Golf & country club, where five of VI’s own team members competed.
Under the guidance of coach, Cletis Clendinen, and team manager, LaVerne Slack, golfers, Keshawn Peets, Cosmo Williams, Annamarie Morales, LaVonte’ Blyden, Ricky James and Beresford “BJ” Lynch, three from St Thomas and two from St Croix, demonstrated proficiency and determination. Their love and commitment to the game was evident for the three-day tournament, held July 7-9.
This was St Croix’s second time hosting the Caribbean Golf Association Junior Championships, with participants from the Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and the US Virgin Islands.
Cosmo Williams was once again the Tournament Director, assisted by Nevins Phillips, Golf Director and President of the Association, based in St Thomas. Williams says he was in charge of only the golfing aspect of the tournament, but he knows from previous experience the tremendous logistic required to host/house ten teams, with players, coaches and parents and even some siblings, and provide transportation, food as well as to pool volunteers to transport golfers on the course.
While golf has been donned a “gentleman’s” game, these Caribbean youth are revamping that notion to be more inclusive and diverse, and are demonstrating that they have what it takes. Annamarie Morales, the only girl on the team, attends the St Croix Educational Complex, has been playing since she was seven years old, and has participated in four such tournaments. She says, “I love the mental and physical challenge of golf.” Her favorite player is Murray McLlroy, and she urges her fellow age-mates Crucians to check out the game, “as it is fun and interesting.”
Keshawn Peets, also from St Croix, was introduced to golf by his father Ken, also a golfer, and has been playing since he was five years old, and plans to continue playing all the way to college and beyond. This confident sixteen year-old golfer attends Central High.
Beresford “BJ” Lynch, sixteen years old, from St Thomas, was also introduced to golf by his father, but credits a family friend, Buddy Smith for taking him under his wing and giving him the guidance he needed to develop his skills. He loves golf, and is confident he will play in college before deciding if he will go professional. Ricky James, somewhat shy, likes the game and being out on the green. LaVonte Blyden who has been playing for ten years, has participated in seven tournaments, states, “What I like about golf is that you never play the same way twice.” His best score thus far is 79 and he thanks his mentors, Art and Conrad.
Although the Puerto Rico team won the championship, and the VI placed seventh, the notion that golf is simply a leisurely sport, is not quite accurate; it is also arduous, requiring concentration and a keen focus. These youths were out on the green from about 8 a.m. and until approximately 2:30 pm., under the hot sun, often carrying their own golf bag, which weighs an average of 10-15 pounds, and having to maintain their own scorecards.
LaVerne Slack, the team manager got her sons involved in golf ten years ago when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper offering free golf lessons to children 7-17 at Mahogany Run, St Thomas. Slack likes golf for her sons because she says, “It teaches them honesty, disciple and integrity. The comrade you find on a golf course, is not evident in any other sports. Golf is real classy; it is a sport you don’t have to worry about injuries, and you can play as long as you can swing a club.”
For those parents who are interested in getting their youth into golf, they should contact Nevin Phillips, Golf Director. 340-777-6006. Governor Mapp has pledged his commitment to expand this sport in the territory. Who knows, the VI probably has several future, Tiger Woods.