The 2018 Greencard Golf Holidays Jamaica event was the first time our Tour had visited arguably the most famous of the Caribbean islands. Historically, January is one of the driest months of the year and the temperatures are normally in the high 20’s. Perfect conditions for a golfing holiday escaping from the UK’s winter.
Unprecedented Weather Test Greenkeeping Teams
The temperatures remained very pleasant throughout the holiday but unfortunately the whole of the Caribbean was experiencing unseasonable extreme rainfall. Indeed, the amount of rain that had fallen since December and then throughout the early part of January was the heaviest in over 60 years. As a result, the ground conditions were far from ideal.
The scheduled golf programme included two rounds on both White Witch and Cinnamon Hill, a course made famous in the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” starring Roger Moore, with a further round on the nearby Half Moon course.
AM-AM Buggy Stampede
On the first morning, we all gathered at Cinnamon Hill for the AM AM event. The course was designed by Robert von Hagge and Rick Barilis and is one the best on the island. The course winds its way along shores lapped by the turquoise Caribbean Sea and through the lush, mountain terrain of its demanding back nine of which the 17th hole tee-off is 350 feet above sea level. Cinnamon Hill’s diverse elevations offer a great combination of both links style and inland golf.
Unfortunately, the dark clouds surrounding the area looked ominous. We set off in the hope that we could complete the full 18 holes. However, the rain soon started and became heavier and heavier. It quickly became evident that further play was just not going to be possible. We all made our way back to the clubhouse as quickly as the buggies would allow. The round was subsequently abandoned for the day and rescheduled for the following morning.
High Winning Score in AM-AM “Take 2”
The next day we all tried again and although the ground was exceptionally wet, we did complete the full round with only a shower or two coming through. The format of the day was the best two scores to count and the winning team, which included Neil Ratcliffe, Howard Domney, Fred Parks and Sandie Klimcke scored an excellent 82 points. A fine effort in such difficult conditions.
The weather forecast for the next day was a little more promising but further rain overnight meant that despite the warm temperatures the ground remained very wet and we had no choice but to play winter rules.
Bad Spell at White Witch Leads to Change of Venue
The first round of the individual event was due to be played on White Witch but we were advised that this was in worse shape than Cinnamon Hill, which drains the quickest of the three courses. We therefore moved the first round here.
Round 1: Reuben Fielding Leads by Two on Cinnamon Hill
Reuben Fielding started the event in impressive form, his 38 points was the best of the day. Neil Ratcliffe shot 21 on the back nine, including a birdie on the tough par 5 18th hole, to secure 36 points for the round. A score matched by Fred Parks. Howard Domney carded a 35 and John Jagger 33. Sandie Klimcke was the leading lady after the first round with 31 points.
A rest day followed, giving the group time to relax around the hotel or participate in one the many excursions on offer. However, the weather continued to frustrate us with more rain at times.
Poor Drainage on the Moon Leads to Quick Change of Plan
The next course to be played from the original schedule was the nearby Half Moon. However, due to poor drainage for the first time in six years the course management decided to close the course.
Despite the closure of Half Moon, the morning brought cloudless blue sky over the ocean and a hasty meeting with the golf management at Cinnamon Hill was arranged. They agreed that we could play the second round here instead of Half Moon.
The group quickly assembled for action and we set off in anticipation of a round in the dry. However, after a few holes the clouds returned and a heavy shower threaten to curtail another game. Fortunately, after a few minutes things improved and the remainder of the round passed without incident.
Round 2: Debbie Morgan Goes High on the Hill With 35 points
Despite the tricky conditions, the scoring was very impressive. Debbie Morgan shot a tremendous 35 points, followed by Sandie Klimcke with 34. After a disappointing first round Neil Gillam bounced back with 33. Michael Sharman, Alan Baxter, Jim Barton and Reuben Fielding all carded 32 points.
Three Point Lead at Halfway
At the half way stage Reuben Fielding on 70 points held a three shot lead over Fred Parks. Howard Domney was four behind on 66 with both Sandie Klimcke and Neil Ratclffe lying just one point further back.
Two free days followed before the rescheduled game at Half Moon was due to take place for the third round. However, the rain continued to cause issues and whilst it was in no way continuous, when it did arrive, which was mainly in the evening, it was heavy. It was inevitable but still disappointing to learn hours before we were due to play Half Moon that the management had again taken the decision to close.
Round 3: Half Moon Blues & White Witch Admits Defeat
Another hasty meeting was arranged at Cinnamon Hill and we managed to swap things around again to move Half Moon to the final day. It was clear by this stage that playing White Witch would not be an option. The ground was simply too wet.
Reuben Fielding and Neil Gillam both shot the day’s best score with 35 points. Jez Morgan had 34 and Sandie Klimcke 33.
Round 4: Reuben Clear at the Top but it’s Close in the Pack
The final morning of the event brought the sunshine and a welcome blue sky. We then received the positive news that Half Moon was open for play. It is only five minutes drive from the hotel to the club and whilst the greens were in good shape it soon became clear why the course had struggled to open earlier in the week. The fairways were very wet and as a result we continued to play winter rules. The layout of the course is very different to Cinnamon Hill, it is much flatter and has a more parkland feel.
Struggles for the Leader on Front Nine
It was always going to be a difficult challenge for the chasing pack to catch the leader, beginning the day with a deficit of seven points. However, Reuben Fielding struggled on the front nine and only managed 11 points. Meanwhile Neil Ratcliffe had already secured 17 and Sandie Klimcke 15 points. Suddenly the lead was down to just two points.
Of the earlier finishers Melanie Barton and Gerry Gentle shared the best score of the day with 37. Jez Morgan and Debbie Morgan both scored 35 and Alan Baxter 32 points.
Reuben Shoots for the Moon and Holds On
The group watched the final group complete their round and as they left the 18th green it was not clear who had managed to take the title. After the cards had been signed and the scores calculated it was confirmed that Reuben Fielding’s 16 points on the back nine had proved enough for him to hang on to top spot with a total of 132.
Neil Ratcliffe shot 32 and moved into second place overall on 129. It also confirmed his qualification to the Grand Finals at Quinta do Lago later in the year. Jez Morgan, Debbie Morgan and Sandie Klimcke all finished on 128 with Jez Morgan taking third place on countback.
Congratulations to Reuben Fielding on his fine win and securing qualification to the Grand Finals. He led the event from the first round to the final putt, a tremendous effort which including one of the most amazing pars seen on the Greencard Tour. Having put his first tee shot into the ravine on the “Live and Let Die” waterfall hole at Cinnamon Hill, Reuben refused to be shaken or stirred, and casually holed his second straight from the tee box for a “mulligan” hole in one and a par 3! Not even Bond himself could done it smoother! All round a great week for Reuben and a deserved victory.
Final thoughts from the Caribbean
When you plan golf holidays to Jamaica in January, sunshine and blue sky are expected, and it was a shame that the weather did not go in our favour. However, when the sunshine did arrive and you are having a beer or cocktail discussing the day’s golf with friends in the bar overlooking the ocean, watching the sun set, there are certainly worse places to be in the middle of January.
2018 Greencard Golf Holidays Jamaica Event: Final Leaderboard
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