Fun-filled celebrity golf weekend in Exuma
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Sep 30, 2013
EXUMA, The Bahamas – When one of the world’s most renowned golfing legends and course designers, and one of the top all-inclusive resorts in the world come together, only positive things could happen for the sport and the community involved.
This past weekend, the island of Exuma was the beneficiary of the inaugural Sandals Celebrity Getaway and Golf Weekend at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma. The event, which was hosted by Access Hollywood and Maria Menounos, was in support of the Sandals Foundation which funds projects in the Caribbean in three key areas – education, environment and community.
Coming to The Bahamas on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) championship standard course that he helped design, Australian Greg Norman said that he is excited about the creation of the celebrity challenge, and the opportunities that it presents for the island of Exuma and the young people of The Bahamas.
“I love it here… how could you not love this place,” asked Norman during the first day of the celebrity event on Saturday. “I’m a huge fan of The Bahamas, and it’s just up to the government and the corporate community to throw their support behind the game of golf. Golf represents a huge opportunity to expose this country, and I would like to see the government getting involved to give the youth an opportunity not only in golf and sports, but in business as well.”
Also coming to Exuma for the event were “The Bachelor’s” newest married couple Jason and Molly Mesnick, Bravo’s housewife Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Tristan Wilds, Aimee Garcia, Jesse Metcalfe, Olympian Julia Mancuso, Antonio Sabato Jr., Roxy Olin, Brittany Snow, Alan Thicke, Steven Bauer, Garcelle Beauvais and the husband and wife team of Rodney and Holly Robinson-Peete, just to name a few.
During the Sunday of the event, Norman staged a golf clinic for about 50 young Bahamians on the driving range, showing them the basics of the sport.
“The young kids of today are going to be our future generation of golfers,” said Norman. “If I could give them one tip, and they become
better golfers and better individuals, then that would be a success story. My sport has given me a lot and I would love to give back to the younger generation, so that’s what I’m doing here,” he added.
Sandals founder and owner Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was in Exuma this past weekend, and said that partnering with Norman in this venture was really a no-brainer.
“Greg Norman is the easiest person to deal with. He loves it down here,” said Stewart. “This particular course that he designed is one of the courses that he is most emotional about. The developers developed on the inside, so Greg was able to develop on the outside which is very unusual. He has been able to develop this as a course that is championship standard. It is a tough course, and it creates a lot of challenges, and we’re just happy to have him as a part of this first celebrity tournament.”
Norman said that his relationship with ‘Butch’ Stewart and his son, Sandals Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adam Stewart, has been top class from Day One.
“We’re all on the same page, and anything I can do to help them to be successful, I am going to be there for them,” said Norman. “This tournament in itself is creating a lot of airlift, and The Bahamas will be the benefactor. Overall, it creates for a very successful and exciting tournament, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Norman himself flew into Exuma from China on Friday night, and positioned himself to go straight to the golf course here on Saturday morning.
The Sandals Emerald Bay Resort itself is one of the most popular touristic destinations in the entire Bahamas, particularly with direct flights now coming into the island from Toronto, Canada. It has been in operation for the past three and a half years. On the wider scale, Sandals Resorts International won 14 awards at the most recent World Travel Awards.
“Sandals is one of the world’s best all-inclusive resorts. Staff training is number one, management training is number one, and we have a product that is second to none,” said Butch Stewart, who hails from Jamaica. “Coming to Exuma has been a great experience. Everything that we do here at Sandals is home bred, and this island has some of the nicest people. I’ve known Exuma for a long time and I love The Bahamas.
“Our job is to let people know about the Exumas. I don’t know of anything nicer in The Bahamas than this resort. It is one of the most comprehensive resorts in the entire world. People don’t expect for an all-inclusive to have the quality of food, the quality of drinks and the quality of service that you can find here. One can come here and enjoy all of the amenities, and see the beautiful beaches as well. I love it,” he added.
The Sandals Celebrity Getaway and Golf Weekend started on Friday with a Welcome Junkanoo Beach Party. The featured event on Saturday was a celebrity cocktail reception, and the celebrity golf tournament at the 18-hole Sandals Emeralds Reef Golf Course wrapped up the weekend’s activities on Sunday morning.
Also on Sunday was the highly anticipated ‘Million Dollar Hole-In-One Shootout’ that allowed five of the golfers including Norman a chance to shoot a hole-in-one for a $1 million donation to the Sandals Foundation. None of the golfers were successful in making the shot.