Play Golf

Developing the sport and producing champions in the Cayman Islands

The R&A
09 Dec 22
3 mins

Through Learn to Golf and Competitive Golf pathways, the Cayman Islands Golf Association has set a standard for golf development in a small country.

In 2022, Aaron Jarvis became the first player from the Cayman Islands to compete in The Open when he teed it up at St Andrews in The 150th instalment of the historic Championship. Aged just 19, Jarvis had won the Latin America Amateur Championship in January and secured starts at both the Masters Tournament and The Open in 2022 as a result. It was an incredible feat for a player from a country with a population of only 71,000 and just one 18-hole golf facility. And Jarvis isn’t the only success story to come out of the Caymans this year. Holly McLean won the 2022 Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship and has earned a Division One scholarship to the University of Oklahoma. Jarvis, along with Justin Hastings, have Division One scholarships, to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and San Diego State University respectively.  It’s quite a set of achievements when you consider the Cayman Islands Golf Association (CIGA) has a membership of just under 300.  With strategic planning and efficient use of resources, CIGA has been able to make great inroads into golf development in recent seasons, and the accomplishments of Aaron, Justin and Holly provide a potential springboard for future growth and success.  “The biggest thing is that Aaron, Justin and Holly have shown us what can be achieved through our development programmes,” says Jonathan Joyce, President of CIGA. “It motivates us as we try to provide similar opportunities to the next generation of junior golfers coming up.”

Learn to Golf pathway

CIGA has a goal to encourage a coordinated national strategy for junior golf development for the Cayman Islands. CIGA has worked with golf professionals and facilities to build structured junior golf development programmes for children aged six to 18. The Learn to Golf pathway has four levels, beginning with “Active Start” for youngsters aged six to ten which simply encourages the fundamentals of movement and balance, providing a foundation for more complex golfing movements. Kids move up the levels, learning the basics of golf and then on to more advanced skills. At the fourth “Emerging Level,” juniors are encouraged to play 18 holes and establish a handicap index. The objective is to encourage all youngsters to enjoy golf, whether they see it as a competitive pursuit or not.   “For most, golf will become a fun recreational sport that will last a lifetime,” adds Joyce. “Our programmes look to provide those kids the skills needed to get on the course and have fun.”
Jarvis, along with Justin Hastings (pictured), have Division One scholarships, to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and San Diego State University respectively.

Competitive Golf pathway

Although many juniors will simply enjoy the recreational side of golf, others may look to play at a higher level. CIGA has developed the Competitive Golf pathway to follow on from Learn to Golf, taking players from an introduction to competitive golf and on through stages of “learning to compete,” “training to compete,” and then “competing to win.” “We have a really talented and committed National Team Coach in Tim Dwyer and we are working on developing on-island resources that help with fitness, nutrition and mental skills,” says Joyce. “Our goal is to become self-sufficient in golf development.”

Working with The R&A and moving forwards

CIGA has a strong relationship with The R&A, as Joyce continues, “The R&A’s support and more importantly their belief has been so important to CIGA,” he says. “Latin America Director Mark Lawrie has long been a big supporter of Cayman golf. Whether it be funding, equipment or visits to our island to help our development, The R&A has always made Cayman feel like we are important and doing something special.” A next key step in development for the Cayman Islands comes in 2023 when the nation plays host to the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship. Joyce cites hosting that event back in 2013 as a pivotal moment for CIGA.  “It was a spark for Aaron and others, but it also provided a focus for CIGA to make junior golf development a priority,” he says. The story of CIGA is a template for what a small country can achieve with limited resources – if the right people are involved with a clear strategy to move forwards. The achievements of the Cayman Islands and of Aaron Jarvis and Holly McLean in particular, demonstrate the power of development pathways.