The 12th annual RBC/Royal Bank Classic, the second major on the Barbados Golf Association’s calendar, tees off this Saturday with at least three previous champions in contention in the men’s top flight.
Close to 120 male and female players are listed to compete in the two-day tournament at the Barbados Golf Club, which coincides with this year with the 50th anniversary Independence celebrations across the island.
Last year’s champion James Johnson, who came back after a two-year lay-off and narrowly won on the last hole over 14 year-old Iz Hustler, is expected to defend his crown but will face-off against a skilled list of national players and other contenders who will be seeking to position themselves to clutch the crystal trophy.
Canada-based Stephen Layne, the 2010 RBC champion, and 2013 champion Dawn Bispham, are among those who will be tussling for the championship but will have to produce high quality golf over 36 holes to stave off long-standing Barbados player Julian Jordan (the 2014 Barbados Open champion), former Jamaica player Mark Blakeley, who finished second in the RBC last year, Carlsen Leacock (the 2015 Open champion), and the improving Maurice Forde, who made an impressive Hoerman Cup debut for Barbados shooting 70s over three straight days.
Teenager Hustler, who also made his senior debut at the 2016 Hoerman Cup in the Bahamas, and regular Barbados player Simon Proverbs (the 2015 BGC Open champion, as well as veteran Barbados player Elvis Medford and former Barbados cricketer Nolan Clarke are also among the major contenders.
“This is a major tournament staged annually by the BGA and an important one for players seeking to qualify for national selection as well as for those seeking to add points to their international amateur world rankings. We have a good competitive field and we are hoping for good weather over the two days,” said BGA president Trevor Tasker.
Based on their showings in recent tournaments, the Classic is also expected to be another defining event for the island’s rising junior players, such as Xzavier Wiggins, Christian Mason and Oaziah Layne who will compete among the men, and female juniors Emily Odwin and Alyssa Inniss-Gittens who will compete among more experienced women.
Both Odwin, a winner in the under-13 division at the 2016 Caribbean Junior Championships, and Inniss-Gittens recently participated in the Annika Sorenstam Invitational in Argentina and are expected to make their presence felt among seasoned players Lynn DeCambra-Mcleod, Julia Stephenson and Helen Foster.
Seven divisions are being contested over the two days of play at the Barbados Golf Club and the senior men’s category is also shaping to be an interesting battle with consistent veteran Bill Weir, Barbados players Robert Piggott and Orville Alleyne and former West Indies cricketer Desmond Haynes among those teeing up.
Players from Barbados, England and Canada are contesting the 36-hole tournament and have been at practice over the past week, getting used to the challenging conditions and the 16 newly installed paspallum greens, at the Durants course.
The RBC is known internationally as a major supporter of golf through their sponsorship of professional players and two prestigious PGA Tour events (The Canadian Open and RBC Heritage) and Royal Bank executives in Barbados said they were proud to continue support for the Classic and will again present the RBC Junior High Performance Award, to a deserving young golfer at the end of the tournament.
The November 26 and 27 tournament is also being co-sponsored by Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank and Trust, who for the third year will be awarding nearest-to-the-pin prizes on all par-3 holes at the Barbados Golf Club.