Ocho Rios, December 17, 2018: With extensive research available on the many benefits of the game of golf to the personal development of youths, the Sandals Foundation has set its sights on attracting more rural girls to the sport.
At its Christmas Girls Golf Camp held this week at Sandals Golf and Country Club in St Ann, the Foundation brought together almost 30 girls from several schools across the parish to participate in three days of introductory golf lessons and motivational sessions. The girls also had the opportunity to speak with outstanding junior golfer and captain of the Jamaican Junior Golf Team, Kei Harris.
Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke said the main aim of the camp was to expose the girls to the various opportunities available through the game of golf.
“This Christmas golf camp is an extension of the foundation’s Care for Kids Junior Golf Programme, which has produced a number of national junior representatives who have gone on to participate on the international circuit and received full scholarships to local and overseas universities. We want to make sure that our girls are not left out.”
Outside of the many opportunities to compete on the international stage, research has shown that learning and playing sports teaches a number of valuable life skills that are essential for developing children. “We have had front row seats to see how playing golf every week has helped the children who pass through the programme. It has been a very successful tool for developing interpersonal, self-management and goal-setting skills, and overall strengthening their resilience to face difficult situations.”
Now 19 years old, Kei Harris has been playing golf since she was eight and shared real-life examples of the impact playing golf has had on her life.
“Golf has taught me very important values such as integrity and discipline and has really helped to shape me into who I am today,” Harris told the girls in attendance. “Golf has opened up so many doors to not only allow me to travel the world but now I am on a golf scholarship to Alabama State University which, in and of itself, is just such a great opportunity. It’s really a blessing to be able to play this sport and play it well.”
Her parting advice to the young girls was to “just stick with it. Stick with golf and it will teach you so much and open up doors for you. It’s a fun game to play once you learn about it”.
The camp also involved interactive vision board sessions, helping the girls to define and lay out their life goals and aspirations. Research shows that self-management skills such as those learned in golf can be used to help improve academic performance, productivity and decrease problematic behavior.
‘The golf camp was very exciting; I had a lot of fun playing. I learned different ways in which we can help improve our lives while playing the sport. I was very happy to participate in the vision board session. It was very inspiring; it made me think and reflect on my future. An awesome experience,” said the elated Damilia McLarty, student of Exchange All Age School who also placed third in the Closest to the Pin competition on the final day.
“We have a great team of volunteers at the Sandals Golf and Country Club who are excited to help the girls to reach their full potential through golf. The coaches have expressed that they are seeing a lot of natural talent in these girls, many of whom have expressed an interest in being a part of the Care for Kids Golf Programme, so we are looking forward to having them,” Clarke said.
The Sandals Foundation’s Care for Kids Golf Programme has, for the past nine years, been offering year-round golf lessons, mentorship, and academic guidance to approximately 25 youths each year. The programme has provided annual support to the national Junior Golf Programme, funding travel to regional and international tournaments and supporting the players as they progress through the programme.