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Gaunt’s absence paves way for new champion

Not returning: Daniel Gaunt

A new champion will be crowned at the Grey Goose World Par 3 Championship, which starts at Turtle Hill Golf Club today.

Daniel Gaunt is not returning to defend his title on the tenth anniversary of the 36-hole tournament as he is competing on the Mena Tour in Dubai.

The Australian won by two shots at last year’s event which was reduced to 18-holes after organisers cancelled the final round because of strong gales.

Among a star-studded field gunning for Gaunt’s vacant crown and a share of the $50,000 purse is Chip Beck, a former PGA Tour and US Ryder Cup player, who spoke highly on the condition and modifications to the Fairmont Southampton layout.

“The course is in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen,” said Beck, one of only six players to card a round of 59 in the history of the PGA Tour.

“It’s absolutely spectacular and they have increased a couple of holes. They have made the second and third hole longer, which is really interesting because the drops are like another 40 yards down the hill.

“Turtle Hill is a great golf course. One of the best I’ve ever played, especially for par 3 because it’s so hilly and so many changes and the wind plays a difference.”

The field also boasts Barry Lane, a former European Tour player, as well as LPGA Tour player Lori Kane and Ladies European Tour and former LPGA Tour player Trish Johnson.

Lane is a five-times winner on the European Tour while Kane and Johnson have won seven titles between them on the LPGA Tour. Johnson is also tied for the third most wins (19) on the Ladies European Tour.

“What’s nice about the event is that the women can compete with the men,” Beck added. “I love that and think that’s what golf should be.”

The field also boast past winners such as European Senior Tour player Mark Mouland and Bermuda’s Daniel Augustus who is a two-times winner.

“There’s a lot of talent in this field, which is as strong as any field has ever been for this event,” Chris Fry, the PGA of Canada president, said.

Fry also believes the course record of four-under-par 50 shared between Beck and Canadian Brian McCann could be broken this year.

“I think we might see a record set this week,” he added. “The course is perfect; it’s got the best greens on the island pace-wise.”

Beck, the 1990 Buick Open winner, agreed. “It could be depending on the wind,” he said. “They are predicting really good weather and low wind, so it could be a factor.”

Meanwhile, returning to defend his amateur title is Bermuda’s Jevon Roberts, who won his division by three shots last year.

“I’m just going to go and try and play as good as I can,” he said. “If I play pretty well then I should be up near the top, which is all you want really.

“There are a lot of good players here and it’s a nice test to see where your game is at.”

Also carrying local hopes among the professional division is Camiko Smith, who finished tied for second in 2014.

“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well and just looking forward to getting out there and putting up some good scores and see what I can do,” he said.