he Cayman Islands is comprised of three islands, two golf courses, and exactly one golfer who is participating in The Open this year at St Andrews: Aaron Jarvis. As a UNLV freshman he punched his ticket to Scotland (and to the Masters) by winning the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominican Republic, and the video clip of his moment of victory is an instant pick-me-up for anyone who needs a shot of joy.
More than just a win for Jarvis, however, this was the first time that a golfer from the Caribbean had won the event, meaning that the celebration was shared. It also means that the young man from George Town suddenly had some weight on his shoulders: a sense of responsibility for growing the Caribbean game and for representing the Cayman Islands on some of golf’s biggest stages, and all of the time-management issues that come with suddenly being noticed.
“It took me hours to go through my phone to see the messages,” he says, reflecting on the mayhem that followed his Amateur win. “It was a lot right after. I had to take a couple of days off of golf and sort out my life, sit down with my coaches, balance out school and golf when I first got back to the university after the tournament. I just had to take a minute and breathe a little bit.
“One of the players from Jamaica, he said a lot of people in Jamaica are playing now because of [the win]. That means a lot. It meant a lot for me, but it meant a lot for the Cayman Islands to take home the title, and hopefully we’ll have many more in the future.”
Going into the final round of the LAAC, Jarvis started three back of the lead. He carded three birdies in the first five holes, but then erased them with a bogey and double bogey and ended the first nine at even par. Three more birdies appeared in the first six of the back nine, but then he put it in the water on the par-3 16th and a chance at victory seemed in doubt. A massive putt for bogey kept his hopes alive, and a birdie on 18 left him barely in the lead with a total 281, 7 under for the week and on the edge of his seat.
“I was in a perfect spot,” he remembers. “Three back, no one’s really paying attention to what I’m doing, so I just went out there, played my game, posted a number and then watched them come in.
“That wait after… I was three or four groups ahead.
I mean, I was more nervous watching them come in than I was playing.”
The last few groups all contained players who were higher-ranked than Jarvis (No. 1,669 at the time), including Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, the No.38-ranked amateur from Argentina. When each of the contenders missed putts that would have forced a playoff, Jarvis—and the small group of other Caribbean golfers gathered around him—exploded with joy, a moment brilliantly captured in a video posted to LAAC’s Twitter account.
“That was crazy, what happened on the 18th. It was insane in the last group, when that putt missed and I won—it was a dream come true.”
And a dream shared, as someone from the Caribbean group underlined, exclaiming “Finally, someone from the Caribbean!” during the celebration.
“Bro, he’s going to the Masters!” added Justin Burrowes, a competitor from Jamaica. And Jarvis did go, becoming the first Caymanian to play for a Green Jacket. He made birdie on the par-3 No.12 in each of the first two rounds and nearly aced No.16 on Friday, a day on which his 74 tied for the low round among amateurs but failed to help him make the cut. Calling the experience “incredible,” he admits that the spectacle at Augusta proved a learning experience. The trip to St Andrews, he suggested, might be more even keel.
“I’m not going to go out there and be like ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!,’” says Jarvis. “That doesn’t really help my game. The first time I went to Augusta I did that, and I didn’t play really good golf because my mind was blown about the place and the course.”
With Scotland, however, “I have been out there a couple of times. I played in the Junior British Open in 2018 and I got to play the Old Course, which is good. It’s good that I’ve been there before.”
It’s also good that before he makes his debut in The Open, he’s headed to the British Amateur at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where he could work out any kinks. As for his opinion of the Old Course, Jarvis says that at first blush he didn’t find it overly intimidating (see sidebar: First Impressions), a fact that might actually help, quelling nerves during what is sure to be a pomp-charged 150th. Regardless for Jarvis, a huge victory already has been won in getting to The Open; some might even call it “unlikely.”
“We have two courses, an 18 and a 9,” he says, painting a picture of golf in the Cayman Islands. “I grew up playing here, and took advantage of every opportunity to play.”
Jarvis got into the game at the age of 12 when, as a soccer player, he watched his older brother, Andrew, playing in the Caribbean Amateur Junior Championships and decided he wanted to have a go. Now, he says, “We compete with each other all the time. I haven’t won the Island Championship; he’s won it three times.
“I mean, it wasn’t easy growing up with one full course. We would travel each year to go play different teams around the Caribbean, and it was good when I started going to the States, learning how to play different courses. Game management is one of those things I still need to work on.”
Jarvis says his strength is from 140–175 yards, his short and mid irons—“when I do my stats, those are above TOUR average every single time,” he points out.
And after moving from the Islands to the desert of Las Vegas to work with the coaching staff at UNLV, he says his game is improving: “I practice a little different to others; I don’t need to hit 1,000 balls on the range. My training is more specific to what I need to work on. I’ve always thought about being a pro golfer. I know it takes a lot of work, and I know I’ve still got to put in way more work.”
For now, he’s taking a moment to appreciate the work he’s already done—and where it’s taking him: to the Masters, The Open and who knows where after that.
“I always try to look chill and be chill,” he says.
“Growing up [in the Cayman Islands] has helped me to have that relaxed vibe. I’m just trying to be grateful for each opportunity… I mean, it’s going to be a good summer; I’m looking forward to it.”
Long before Aaron Jarvis headed to this year’s Open at St Andrews, he played the Old Course in the 2018 Junior British Open. If his first visit didn’t leave him awestruck, at least it had him in good company: “I thought the first three holes and the last three holes were special,” Jarvis said. “The rest of the course I thought was a normal golf course.”
Now 19, Jarvis’ first assessment parallels Bobby Jones’, who at the same age remarked, “I considered St Andrews among the very worst courses I had ever seen.” Sam Snead was more blunt, offering that it “looked like the sort of real estate you couldn’t give away.”
John Daly, who won there in 1995 agreed: “It looked like the cow pasture everyone told me it was.”
Arnold Palmer thought the same at first, and there are others. But if Palmer and other luminaries were unimpressed at first, each came to love and to respect the challenges posed by the Old Course. For Jack Nicklaus, the first golfer in the modern era to win a Claret Jug at St Andrews twice, it was love at first sight, though he acknowledged that it took a while to “get” the Old Course: “A golfer must play [St Andrews] at least a dozen times before he can expect to understand its subtleties,” Nicklaus wrote in The Greatest Game of All. That means a few more trips for Jarvis to plan after
July—but he’s on the right track, following an esteemed legacy of acquired taste.
The 102 square miles of the Cayman Islands occupy a special place in the Caribbean, functioning as a sort of cultural hub with an array of top regional cuisine, natural wonders, and luxurious dining and accommodations. Add some of the world’s nicest beaches to five-star dining, a couple of lovely golf opportunities via the North Sound Golf Club and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, and a wealth of dive sites—365 at last count, including steep walls, shipwrecks and artificial reefs—and it’s no wonder that the world’s most discerning travelers make the Cayman Islands a regular stop. Served by numerous daily nonstop flights and just one hour from Miami, it might be the most easily accessed bit of paradise on Earth, and one of the most beautiful.