Just weeks removed from the biggest win of his life, Cayman Islands golfer Aaron Jarvis returned to where it all started last month.
“This is like my second home,” said Jarvis, sitting in a cabana at North Sound Golf Club, flanked by scores of photographers, videographers and Department of Tourism officials.
It was a homecoming celebration for Jarvis following his stunning win at the Latin America Amateur Championships in January. The 19-year-old became the first Caribbean-born player to win the LAAC title and, in doing so, qualified for some of the world’s top golf tournaments like The Masters and The Open Championship.
For one weekend in March, he was home for an event full of pomp and circumstance and one more domestic competition ahead of the biggest tournaments of his life. Home for Jarvis isn't just Grand Cayman, but also the North Sound Golf Club.
“My brother, Payton (Wight), myself, Justin (Hastings), all the other juniors – we would just come out [to the North Sound Golf Club] and stay out here until 8, 9 o’clock at night sometimes,” Jarvis said. “We’d just be here all day and afternoons after school. We’d come down and they’d welcome us every single day. So it feels great to come back here.”
Flashing back to the final round of that LAAC, his improbable victory seemed even more improbable. Jarvis, who had kept pace with the leaders over the first three rounds of the tournament, bogeyed and double-bogeyed the eighth and ninth holes during his final round, putting his chances of winning in doubt.
“I just stayed patient,” he said. “I knew anything could happen, right?”
What happened was history.
Jarvis went on to birdie four out of the next nine holes. He headed to the clubhouse following his last hole and waited nervously for the other groups to finish.
“My body was shaking on the inside,” he said.
He watched as others atop the leaderboard missed key putts down the stretch and he emerged victorious.
Hastings, his fellow Cayman Islands golfer, played well in the tournament, too, finishing tied for 22nd. Both came up through Cayman’s junior programme together and both signed on to play with NCAA Division I schools in 2021, becoming the first local golfers to do so.
“Having him there [at the LAAC], we felt like teammates even though we were playing by ourselves,” Jarvis said. “The support that we give each other is great.”
The weeks between his homecoming and The Masters (7-10 April) will be spent practising at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, preparing mentally and physically for playing alongside the game’s superstars.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge," he said. "I know if I put in the work, I can compete with them. It’s gonna be a fun week.”
NURTURING YOUTH GOLF
Augusta is a long way from Cayman. But it’s the lessons Jarvis learned at the North Sound Golf Club that have prepared him for this moment.
Jarvis and Hastings are part of a generation of young golfers in the Cayman Islands who have excelled after taking up the game roughly 10 years ago. Five of those golfers are currently ranked in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. It's not just the males who have excelled; Caymanian Holly McLean is set to become the first female to play NCAA Division I golf as she recently gave a verbal commitment to attend the University of Oklahoma on a golf scholarship.
Nearly all of Cayman's talented young golfers got their start at the North Sound Golf Club, which has made it a priority to grant access and resources to young players learning the game.
“When I first started playing, I played at a public course and the rest of the golfers were very welcoming,” said North Sound Golf Club General Manager Jeff Sauvage. “I think most of the professional staff that's come through here for the last 10 years got their start in the very same way. So we kind of have an inherent responsibility to pass that forward to the kids that are taking up the game now.”
Looking ahead, the Cayman Islands Golf Association is trying to create that second wave of junior players to take the torch from Jarvis and company. It created a "Pathway to Golf" development programme that allows young golfers to work with local instructors, including staff at the North Sound Golf Club and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grand Cayman, as well as Cayman’s two indoor facilities.
“We want to grow golf in the Cayman Islands," said instructor Brad de Schiffert of The Golf Lab. "We want to bring more kids into the game."
Cayman aims to put together what will admittedly be an inexperienced team ahead of the next Caribbean Amateur Junior Championships, which will take place at the North Sound Golf Club.
“We have got some good potential coming through,” The Golf Guru instructor Kevin Hinton said.
This article was originally published in the April 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.