Close to 100 local and regional golfers will seek to dethrone defending champion Omari James when the Antigua & Barbuda Golf Association (ABGA) hosts its National Open Championship at the Cedar Valley Golf Course at the end of February.
James, who outclassed the other competitors in his category last year, will return to defend his crown against some of the more talented players here in Antigua and from neighbouring Caribbean islands.
PRO of the Golf Association and Tournament Director, Avery Jonas said the Antiguan sensation is tipped as favourite, but could find success a bit elusive this time around.
“From all reports, his game is in top form and of course we have other local golfers like Paul Michael, Dion Massiah … that will be trying to dethrone him and obviously those guys from St Kitts. The 2013 winner, Raymond Percival, will be coming up as well so undoubtedly he will be trying to dethrone Omari,” Jonas said.
“I will tell you that Paul Michael said to me he is going to win the tournament this year and he did say it with a level of confidence … and we can’t forget the Senior’s Division where Xavier Ross is last year’s champ and he is also on top of his game,” he added.
Last year’s tournament, Jonas said, saw one of the largest turnouts of golfers in recent years but he added that, to date, registration for this year’s tournament has been slow.
“Last year, we had in excess of 90 golfers and I would say that the registration for this year seems a little slow. We usually have a large contingent from St Kitts and as you know, St Kitts just had general elections and I think they’re a little bit slow in terms of the registration, but we are still trying to work with them. We have had a few but we are hoping that towards the end of this week and early next week we will have a better understanding of the amount of players we can expect from overseas,” he said.
Asked if the Golf Association, in light of the fact that the sport is now recognised by the IOC, will be seeking to become members of the National Olympic Committee (NOC), Jonas said they are first seeking recognition from a higher authority.
“For us to become members of the NOC, it requires that we become a member of the international body of golf so we are now in the process of doing the application for the USGA; so we need to be affiliated with that body first before we can become a member,” the PRO said.
The Antigua Open will run from February 28 to March 1.