Letter: The sad affair of golf in Guyana

The Lusignan Golf Club [Photo from Lusignan Golf Club Facebook Page]

Dear Editor,

The premier golf tournament on the local calendar is the Guyana Open. This year it has been played as the GT&T Invitational but in the absence of an Open, this tournament will be considered by the golfing fraternity as the Open. Regrettably, technically speaking the winner will be denied ownership of the highly coveted title of ‘Open Champion’ but cannot be denied that of being the champion golfer of the year. This, however, is but a digression from the tournament itself, one that was played on a rock-hard Lusignan course due to the prolonged dry spell.

The bone-dry and hard (clay) fairways, largely devoid of grass, meant that the bounce of both tee shots and approach shots was unpredictable, adding to the challenges that are part and parcel of a game that can be unforgiving. Each of the ninety-plus golfers that teed it up will have their own laments of what ‘unfair’ bounces they had but at the end of the day, everyone played the same course and faced the same conditions.

The winner usually comes from the final group, that is, players with the four lowest scores at the end of Day One. By this measure, the defending champion, Avinash Persaud was considered to be out of the race. At the end of the first day, there were five players with better scores than him, these being Vishal Dhani (73), Marlon Abena (Surinam) (74), Mohanlall Dinanauth (74), Jalen Raman (Fiji) (75) and Ridel Doekoe (Surinam) (75).

Avinash was four shots adrift of the leader and the whisper among the villagers was that there would be a new champion this year. There were still 18 holes of golf remaining, however, and as four-time Major winner Padraig Harrington observed, it’s the back nine on the final round in Majors that determines the winner and where the mettle of players is tested. In his eleven previous Open wins, Avinash had not been in the final group on the final day but clearly, statistics do not deter champions.

Undeterred by not being in the select final group, Avinash produced a scintillating display of quality golf with a score of seventy-one, which was seven shots better than the next best, to win by four shots. His even par score of 35 on the front-nine, fully erased the deficit with the final group. Starting the back nine, however, he was one shot behind Jalen, with whom he’s had ding-dong battles over the years. Jalen’s front nine score of 36 meant that Avinash had clawed back one of the two-shot deficit he started day two with. Though unnoticed the fight for the title was going to be between these two players who were not in the final group.

Returning to Padraig Harrington’s time-tested observation, the fight had now begun. Avinash wasted no time to show his resolve and mettle with an eagle (2 under par) on their 10th hole, the par-5, 11th hole. Jalen’s par score meant that he was now one shot behind Avinash and so the battle continued until his implosion at their 16th hole. Avinash’s eagle was followed by consecutive bogeys (one over par) on the next two holes. His dry remark that ‘just like that the eagle flew away’! showed that he was not overawed by the moment and stakes. He followed this with another bogey on the par-4, 14th. Jalen had reclaimed advantage. True champions dig deep however and consecutive birdies on two of the next three holes, one being arguably the most challenging hole, the par-3, 17th (with Jalen making a triple bogey six!) effectively saw the contest over. One will never know but it is suspected that Avinash’s laser-like tee shot on this par-3 hole definitely added to the pressure of the moment, resulting in Jalen’s totally uncharacteristic triple bogey.

Sportswriters speak of an ‘X-factor’ which defines champions and interested persons can google this.

When it was all over, Avinash had for the 12th time, proven his clear superiority as the champion golfer of the year, in the process narrowly missing parring the course. It was also his ninth consecutive Open victory, his only loss being in 2013 to his younger brother Avinda.

Vishal Dhani aka ‘Butters’ finished 2nd and Fijian, Jalen Raman, 3rd with total gross scores of 152 and 153 respectively. Congratulations to them both.

Editor, Guyana is now an oil-producing state with previously unimaginable revenues at its disposal. Through your paper, a call is being made to the Ministries of Youth and Sports and Education to engage the 32-year-old Avinash to partner in the future development of golf in Guyana.

As the country with the fastest-growing economy and highest per capita income, the game of golf should enter the mainstream of the national curriculum. The Government would do well to take the initiative.

Yours sincerely,
Ronald Bulkan