A fusion of passion and purpose: Sandals Golf and Jerk Festival hailed for its impact on community development

By June 22, 2024
Jonathan Newnham (second let), Director of Operations at Sandals Golf and Country Club and Heidi Clarke (second right), Executive Director of Sandals Foundation, are flanked by overall champions Cavani James (left) and Tajay Lobban. Jonathan Newnham (second let), Director of Operations at Sandals Golf and Country Club and Heidi Clarke (second right), Executive Director of Sandals Foundation, are flanked by overall champions Cavani James (left) and Tajay Lobban. contributed

With another staging of the Sandals Golf and Jerk Festival now done and dusted, Heidi Clarke, Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation and Jonathan Newnham are content to bask in the success of their hard work, having once again set the bar high.

The event, hosted at the Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, not only combined the love of golf with Jamaica’s renowned culinary tradition, but also reinforced the power of sports and culture to bring people together for a common cause, as it also raised funds for the St Ann's hospital urology department, as well as Sandals Foundation’s Care for Kids programme. 

Cavani James, 12, and his teammate Tajay Lobban, 21, were crowned overall champions of the golf tournament, which was split into three sections to add value for the over 80 participants that journeyed from near and far to contribute to the event’s success.

Elon Parkinson, Digicel’s Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs, and Karen Zacca, Operations Director at the Sandals Foundation, share a photo opportunity with (from left) Jerome Thomas, Cavani James and Tyree Smith.

For Clarke, the event was another testament of the foundation’s years of hard work and dedication to education, healthcare, and community development.

“We haven’t calculated all that came in as yet, but I think that we did great. This is the fourth year that we've been doing this tournament, all with a focus on how we're doing capacity building for hospitals in this region,” Clarke said.

“So last year, we focused on Port Maria hospital and their security system, and a year before that, it was the St Ann's Bay physio department, this year, the urology department. So we've really been able to do a lot, and I am very proud of the team and all the golfers that came out. We are very grateful to them all for the support,” she added.

Kendra Miller, a HEART/NSTA Trust Hospitality student participating in the Jerk competition.

Beyond golf, the Care for Kids programme, which engages kids between the ages of seven and 18 years old, through weekly mentorship training programme, also imparts life skills that Clarke says prepares them to navigate whatever challenges lay ahead.

For the Jerk competition, members from Sandals Dunn’s River Resort, Sandals Royal Plantation, Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and the Country Club match skills with unique chicken, shrimp and fish recipes. In an effort to continue its youth engagement commitment, all jerk teams also comprised students of the St Ann’s Chapter of the HEART/ NSTA Trust’s hospitality school.

“I think it was a fantastic success. Another big aspect of it is the jerk competition. So this year, for the jerk competition, we had the chefs out on the course, so golfers could sample jerk when they were out there. We had some HEART/ NSTA students join them for the competition, so they were mentored from the day before with all the preparations and then during the day of the event,” Clarke shared.

One of the many participants prepares to tee off.

“They all really had a fantastic time. So for us, it's always about how we work with our young people, whether they're playing golf or whether they want to learn about the hospitality industry, and how we're working to build our healthcare, and making our communities stronger. So I think, overall, it was a resounding success,” she noted.

Newnham, director of operations at the golf club, also stressed that the festival is more than just golf, as he too pointed to the lasting positive impact it has on local communities.

“It was just a very first class event and the feedback from the golfers was fantastic. It was fitting that our overall champion was actually a team of Cavani James, who won our junior qualifier a month and a half ago, and Tajay Lobban, a former, a former member of our junior golf programme. So that is very rewarding for us as a programme to showcase the talents that we nurtured,” Newnham reasoned.

“It's a testament to the work that not only we do, but also as a Jamaican golf and junior community as a whole. So very proud that all the hard work that went into it was well awarded and it was essentially a celebration of sport and all it does for us and the surrounding communities, as the proceeds are for a cause,” he ended.

 

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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