By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH all of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology are collaborating their efforts to reintroduce golf into the schools’ curriculum.
The two ministries, which are housed in the same building and at one point were under the same umbrella, are working with the Bahamas Golf Federation and Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy to stage the inaugural National Interschools Golf Championships.
In a joint press conference on Friday at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel, the four bodies revealed plans for the event scheduled for March 22-25 at the BFG’s nine-hole driving range at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex.
Sarah Scheidecker, a six-year-old member of the Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy, an affiliated club of the BGF, kicked off the event by declaring “thanks for bringing golf to our schools.”
But while the Nassau Christian Academy student set the stage, it was the comments by Zion Taylor, dubbed the young ‘Tiger Woods’ and one of the top junior golfers in the country, who said these championships will give him and the other junior golfers in the country the opportunity to showcase their skills.
“As a young golfer, I came with the passion and love for the game,” said Taylor, a 16-year-old student of the Albany Golf Academy. “I spent countless hours of hitting the golf ball until I couldn’t, putting until my back felt so stiff and chipping until there is no more sunshine because I knew what I wanted to accomplish in life.”
As a walking proof of what one can achieve by playing the sport, Taylor encouraged more Bahamian student-athletes to pursue the sport. The former student of Tambearly International School advised them to just believe in themselves that they can do and they can achieve it.
Georgette Rolle, the director of the Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy, revealed that each school is invited to submit a team of five golfers per team per category, which include boys and girls.
“If everyone competes, we are definitely looking up to about 800 students competing in the first golf championships,” she said. “With five players per team, we will take the low four scores to get the accumulated scores for the team.”
Rolle indicated that there will be an individual junior boy and girl champion crowned as well and the overall tournament low score for the championships.
Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Abaco and Exuma are the first four schools from the Family Islands, who will stage their own championships this year before they participate in the national championships next year. Gina Gonzalez-Rolle, the chairman of the Junior Division of the BGF, said they just want to show the world that what they are doing is not in vain.
“With the strain of Covid-19, everyone has been and is still facing their own personal issues,” she declared. “Thinking about the old norm, seemed like a dream.
“Everyone is now pointing to the new norm. Everyone says the new norm. Even in these desperate times, it’s difficult for people to change or better yet they don’t want anything new.”
Gonzalez-Rolle thanked the ministries for believing in the BGF and partnering with them to put on the tournament in what is the first step of great things to come as they prepare to train at least five boys and girls to make up their various high school teams.
She emphasized that it’s their intention to dispel the myth that the sport is an elitist one and that they will not only be lobbying for more scholarships for student-athletes, but to make it the national sport of the Bahamas.
Evon Wisdom, the Senior Education Officer for the Sports Unit at the Ministry of Education, said they got to watch the future of the sport in Scheidecker and Taylor, who will be among the many golfers they hope to showcase during the tournament.
“This event marks the continuation of a planned event,” said Wisdom, whose division at the Ministry of Education were responsible for national high school championships in basketball, soccer and volleyball before the pandemic struck last March.
“This is something where we have a planned initiative where we are looking forward and you would not see the fruits of our initiatives, not right now, but in the future.”
He noted that Covid-19 may have disrupted their plans for a number of initiatives in the schools, including the continuation of track and field at the federation level with inter-house activities taking place with Covid protocols in place and skills events being conducted with the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture.
Wisdom, however, said they realized that the national inter school golf championships could easily take place under the social distance guidelines and they are also looking at the possibility of hosting national interschool championships in swimming and tennis.
Additionally, Wisdom revealed that their ministry has been approached by a major entity with regards to commence discussion on the formation of an elite track and field athletics academy at the school level from primary to high schools with about 10-20 athletes involved.
Marcellus Taylor, the Director of Education at the Ministry of Education, said as a former basketball player, he learnt a lot of lessons about life in general, as only sports can do.
“When sports is conducted properly, it teaches people teamwork, it teaches people discipline, it teaches people to obey rules and it also creates this desire and thirst for excellence,” he pointed out. “You know what it is to persevere, what it is to bounce back from defeat.”
Taylor, who illustrated his ability to strive with a basketball team that went from winless in their first season to turn around and produce a winning season the next year.
He noted that the lessons that people do get from sport, they can be carried over to their education, which should work hand in hand to producing a well rounded individual in life.
In working with the other entities, Taylor said they are pleased to provide this opportunity for the student-athletes to participate in yet another sport from the traditional ones like basketball, baseball/softball, volleyball and track and field.
“I am happy that we are at this point where we can expose opportunities,” he said. “We have organized these championships to demonstrate that golf is a sport that the students can participate in, in an organized environment.”
Tim Munnings, the Director of Sports at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, said this is really a great time to be a student.
“You don’t have to be a runner or swimmer to take advantage of the sports that are presented to you,” he said.
He thanked persons like Georgette Rolle and Gina Gonzalez-Rolle, who have dedicated their time to assist these student-athletes.
“Some people will look at people as they succeed as being lucky, but it’s not about luck. It’s about putting in the hard work,” said Mullings, who went on to represent the Bahamas as an Olympic athlete and a member of the men’s 4 x 400m relay team.
“Luck happens when preparation meets the opportunity. So you have to prepare. So once you’ve done the preparation and you advance to the finals, you there and you win. You have to prepare and put in the work.”
He said their mandate in the Ministry of Sports is to ensure that there is growth and development in sports and so they are happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and the BFA to make this a successful venture
And Clara Storr, the Education Officer for Physical Education at the Ministry of Education, revealed that while her introduction in 2019 to what seemed to be a “complicated sport,” once she got started, she got to know why golfers were so dedicated and passionate about the sport.
While she indicated that a professional course was for the high school teachers, some of whom were a bit of apprehension at first, at the end of the day, they didn’t want to leave even though it was around 5 pm in the afternoon.
Storr said she then realized that golf was an unique sport and the teachers enjoyed it. She’s hoping that as it will be reintroduced to the schools it will be something worth doing in this Covid-19 environment.