Team 16b on top in Sandals Golf
LAST year’s winners, Mark and Shayla Gerling, and Doug and Jeanette Hornik are back to defend the title they won at last year’s Sandal’s US Travel Agents Golf Tournament at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, St Ann.
However, the quartet, now a fixture at the annual four-member scramble, found the going tougher than last year, describing the greens as “a little slower”, according to Mark Gerling at the end of Tuesday’s competitive first day, which ended with Team 16b’s Junior Rodney, Melissa Muenster, and Rudolph Willis leading on 66, five under par, ahead of what is expected to be a thrilling finale today.
“It was a little tougher this year,” said Gerling. “We couldn’t get those long putts to fall today. We had a couple of bogeys, which is uncharacteristic of us, but, as always, we are here at the event to enjoy the best of Jamaica and Sandals, as well as to represent our respective businesses,” he added.
Biggest group ever
The quartet, the Gerlings of Florida, and the Horniks, who operate Alakazam Travel out of Ohio, are among 92 golfing travel agents, the biggest group ever, in the 17th year of the annual tournament, staged by Sandals Resorts to give its partners first-hand experience of the golfing experience, hospitality at the Caribbean chain’s Jamaican resorts, and the island’s varied attractions.
“Even though this is the US Travel Agents tournament, we have a team from Colombia. They flew in ahead of the Latin American group, which is due later this week, and just decided to sign up,” said Garth Laird, senior national director, sales, Unique Vacations, who plays alongside the travel agents each year.
“We have participants from as far west as Seattle, Washington, and as far east as Portland, Maine, then way down south, Florida. It’s probably 50 per cent newcomers this year, and the feedback has been monumental after experiencing five-star global gourmet dining and liquors at the various properties,” he added.
Jeanette Hornik, who first played in the tournament in 2010, said that initiatives such as the Travel Agents Golf Tournament make selling Sandals “second nature”. “They give us all the training. Sandals is more like an extended family to us,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mandy Litterini is heading into her second year of what she described as a “small business”, Litterini Travels, securing 100 Sandals bookings to become a Chairman’s Royal Club member in her first year and now are Elite Chairman’s member with more than 250, heading to ‘Diamond’ status with 500 bookings.
“What I do is concentrate on selling Sandals. It’s extremely easy for me to sell Sandals because I specialise in the product, Sandals Caribbean, but Jamaica is my favourite of all the islands,” she confessed.
“I actually push Jamaica more. I have been to Jamaica nine times in the last two years. I want to become one of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s top sales representatives,” she said.