James Johnson fights off strong challenge to win men’s championship

by Bernard Babb

James Johnson (squatting) and Trevor Levine.
James Johnson (squatting) and Trevor Levine.

It is now No. 12 for Caribbean golf champion James Johnson.

Challenged and threatened on the weekend in the 30th United Insurance Barbados Open, Johnson defied all comers to retain the men’s championship at Royal Westmoreland.

The perennial Barbados king of amateur golf  turned back a strong challenge from Trevor Levine of St. Kitts on Sunday, when he was forced to come from two strokes behind to secure victory.

Levine led Johnson for the first two days and seemed capable of upstaging the champion. However, on the critical final day, Johnson shot one-over-par 73 while Levine stumbled and posted 78, including a bogey on the 18th hole.

Johnson retained his crown with a 54-hole gross 219, three strokes ahead of the challenger (222), who is also the OECS champion.

Women’s champion Rae “Muffin” Stollmeyer of Barbados also successfully defended her crown, posting a 78 on Sunday for a three-day gross 229. Second was 12 year-old Mavi Vergos, who shot 81 for a gross 237.

But it was an intriguing battle  in the men’s championship flight, as Johnson bounced back to tie scores  after 14 holes.  Levine slipped as he double-bogeyed With spectators assembled close to the greens, the pressure of the battle was evident on both players as  they faltered in the closing stages.  Johnson dropped two strokes, as he overhit his second shot and went out of bounds, but Levine was still unable to narrow the gap in his effort to upstage the champion.

Twelve-year-old Mavi Vergos was second in the women’s championship division.
Twelve-year-old Mavi Vergos was second in the women’s championship division.

Surprisingly, Levine bogeyed the final hole, as his putt sailed past the right edge of the cup, and Johnson was confirmed champion for another year.

“It feels great to win … I take a lot of pride in being national champion. My game was not the best  this week but Levine is a good player and I had to find a way. My  experience playing these courses in Barbados made the difference,” Johnson said.

Levine, an OECS Hoerman Cup player and a tourism industry professional now based in the USVI, has won several tournaments across the Caribbean — including the Barbados Open in 2003 as well as the Trinidad Open and St. Kitts Open.

Third was Scott Stollmeyer with a gross 224 and fourth, Bobby Edghill on 231.

Caribbean champion Robert Piggott upstaged defending champion Michael Haynes to win the senior men’s division, posting 79 for a 54-hole gross 230. That was seven strokes clear of Trinidadian Farouk Bhopa (237) and eight better than Haynes (238).

Barbadian Bill Weir took the Super-Seniors division (over 60 years) as he registered 78 for a three-day gross of 225, which was three strokes ahead of defending champion Monty Chapman of Trinidad and nine ahead of Arjune Samlall (234).

Trinidadian Rodney Phillips won the men’s first flight with a gross 246 while Jean-Marc Greaux of St. Maarten) took the second flight with a gross 270

Around 140 players in six divisions, from the Caribbean, Canada, England and France, contested the 30th edition of the three-day United Insurance Barbados Open Golf championships, which were organised by the Barbados Golf Association.

For the first time this year, the tournament was played on four different courses — Apes Hill, the Barbados Golf Club, The Country Club at Sandy Lane and Royal Westmoreland and a major awards ceremony was held at Royal Westmoreland club-house  after the event.

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