It is not very often when a change of ownership of a business/ property or a new government occurs that the new keeps the old. One local organization has been counting their blessings and is thankful for the olive branch offered to them by Sandals Saint Lucia.
Pauline Newman, Grow Well Saint Lucia, who is a Trustee and Director of the Junior Golf Programme at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Cap Estate said she was nervous when Sandals purchased the Golf and Country Club and Golf Course.
“But when I wrote to them about the junior programme, their response was I love it, continue what you are doing”.
Newman took the time out to speak to this reporter minutes before Legendary Golfer, Australian Greg Norman made the pronouncement that the Sandals dubbed “Diamond in the rough” Golf Couse at Cap Estate will be opening on February 10th, 2020.
At the time of this interview close to 20 young golfers were in training under the watchful eyes of coach, Terry Verdant.
Newman said, “This programme started nine years ago with a few children we recruited from the Gros Islet Primary School, and throughout we have found amazing talent in some of the children. We did not pick them for their talent; very few of them know anything about golf. At one time there was a programme with Caddies, but with the advent of golfing carts there was no real need for Caddies and therefore there was no introduction to our children in Gros Islet to a golf course that is nearby”.
“With the assistance of a professional golfer, we started the programme in 2011 and at that point the Golf Course was owned by Cap Estate Saint Lucia Limited. They welcomed us. It was amazing when Misses Adonai and the owners took us under their wings; it was not a universally accepted practice to allow youngsters from Gros Islet onto this prestigious golf course,” Newman added.
“Some members welcomed them, others were saying what are you doing with these children, what is going to happen to them; they learn golf and what next? They were genuine questions,” she said.
“At Grow Well, our goal was to introduce an elite sport to the children in our country, in Gros Islet, because the golf course is within walking distance and they should be able to understand that sports is not only the good sport of cricket and football, but there is also the elite sport like tennis, golf and sailing, they should have a taste of it,” Newman said.
She explained that the equipment for the children came from friends, golfing friends who come to Saint Lucia every year for the winter months.
“They love what we are doing; they love seeing the children on the course and they gave us equipment. Some of them sponsored sessions, each session cost money. Golf is an expensive sport. We have to pay the coaches a stipend, they do give some of their time, and if they weren’t with us they could be earning elsewhere. We have to pay for clubs and uniforms; we have to make them feel they are fitting,” Newman said.
With a smile on her face, Newman said, “Here is where I am so proud of Sandals, because I was so nervous when they purchased the Golf Couse; Sandals All Inclusive, what would happen to our programme? I wrote them a letter detailing what the programme was like; I received a response the same afternoon saying “We love it, continue what you are doing”.
“That means we have a course to play on. Sandals store our equipment, the Sandals bus goes into Gros Islet picks up our children after school on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, take them back to Gros Islet; It shows a commitment, but more than that to us. It shows the children can have an appreciation, self-esteem for themselves; these are not children who are great in school necessarily, but great in something else,” noted Newman.
She said, “Currently there is a two week summer camp going, it’s the eighth consecutive year. Twenty one young golfers are under the watchful eyes of Terry Verdant. We try to have 16 children in the after school programme which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays while the advance golfers are allowed to play on Saturdays. During the school year we start at 3.30 p.m. because of the traffic”.
Newman: “Our top junior golfer is 15 year old Kimani Thomas; his handicap is 13 and its going down and everybody knows that. Kimani, along with Lisa Daniel and Samuel Richelieu won the prestigious ‘Saint Lucia Rotary Tournament’ this year. They also participated in the Trinidad and Tobago Rotary tournament and placed high”.
She continued, “In the Lion’s Tournament Kimani and his team of adults which included Ames and Ray Atkinson won it, Kimani was a key partner in winning two of the best Tournament the club holds. We also have Adrian Richelieu who is excellent and he is challenging Kimani. Lisa Daniel is our champion lady golfer, she turns 18 years on Wednesday 17 July, and she is challenged by Celine Lubin and Britany Mangal”.
When asked what was next in store the junior golfers after the camp she sald, “We have regular programmes, during the school year; it’s three times a week. What next for them, some of them have been here for nine years, they graduated, they are 18 years and they have to leave the programme. We gave three of them including Lisa Daniel, Steward Membership, so they can play on their own; they are members of the course. They could be members until age 21 and then the higher regular membership starts. They have an opportunity”.
Newman: “What is more important to us, we are building them to be stellar members of their respective communities, it’s not just golf because if it was just golf, we would go and find the best athlete to play”.
She said the theme at camp is appreciation; the children are learning to appreciate what they have and what were given to them by so many others and to appreciate one another.