“My dream is to play at the Olympics representing my country”

“My dream is to play at the Olympics representing my country”

Said Malik Levens, the only junior golf player in Curacao in the championship flight, invited to play at the XII Sambil Venezuela Open in November, now he will do it at the 1st Sambil Curacao Open at Old Quarry, designed by the well known Pet Dye, interviewed by Fairway Magazine

¿When and how did you know about golf?
When I was 8 years old, I visited my grandparents in the Netherlands during the summer vacation. My grandmother knew how much I enjoyed sports so she signed me up for a one-week introductory golf camp for kids at the local golf club. Golf felt very natural to me. I surprised everyone, including myself, when on the second day I could already hit my drive 175 yards. On the last day of the camp there was a competition with fun tasks and targets, which I ended up winning. Needless to say, I wanted to continue playing golf, so back in Curaçao, I joined the weekly kids’ golf lessons at the golf club. One summer, I was a young teenager then, I started playing daily with the green keepers and would hit the ball off the men’s tee like they did. That is how my game quickly improved. And the more it improved, the more I loved it.”

¿Why do you like golf so much?
I have played many different sports such as soccer, volleyball, tennis, basketball, and golf. The reason I like golf the most is that I find it to be the most challenging; you are basically playing against yourself, and just when you think you “have it”, another aspect of your game needs attention. It is really cool to see yourself improve and to score better and better. Plus you are outside in nature.”

¿How much time do you spend weekly on golf?
Typically I wake up at 5:30 in the morning so that I can work on my short game, which consists of chipping and putting. At 7:00, I go to school and after school I practice more and play 9 holes at the golf club that is nearest to our house. I practice four times a week, and play small club tournaments on Fridays and Saturdays. To prepare for big tournaments I play 18 holes at Old Quarry and another golf course at least twice a week. Each golf course is different, so I’d like to play the different courses as much as I can. Of course schoolwork is a priority as well so sometimes I don’t get to play as much as I would like.”

¿How is it to play at Old Quarry?
By far it is the nicest course on our island. I wish it were a little closer to my house so that I could go more often. Because it is adjacent to the ocean, there is a lot of wind and that makes it relatively challenging to play. It is also a long course. Curacao is a sunny, dry island, so special grass was imported from other parts of the world and planted at the golf course. The greens are maintained very well. Did I mention the spectacular view?

¿How was your experience of being invited by Sambil & receiving help from INSEL AIR to play at XII Sambil Open in Izcaragua CC?
When I heard from my coach, the golf pro at Old Quarry, that I was invited to represent Curaçao in a big golf tournament in neighboring Venezuela, I couldn’t wait. It was going to be my first four-day tournament and gave me the opportunity to play another course and at a high level of competition. My parents did not want me to travel alone, but fortunately, a fellow golfer, Richard, was kind enough to offer to go with me for the entire week. He received the go-ahead from his work and I was given permission to miss school. Insel Air was also very supportive and sponsored our tickets. They offer direct flights between Curaçao and Venezuela. We took a flight that arrived in the evening. The tournament director, Sr. Eduardo, picked us up from the airport. He was the best host possible. He really made us feel welcome and arranged everything for us. For that I am very grateful.”

We stayed at the beautiful Lidotel in Caracas. When I come back to Venezuela I would want to stay there again. The food and service were really good, and I always felt safe in the hotel. The next morning, I was amazed to see the Izcaragua golf course and club house. It was even more beautiful than on the pictures I had seen and completely exceeded my expectations. I did have to get used to the course so I was glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the pro-am tournament the day before the big tournament started.”

In Curaçao I am the only competitive golfer in my age group, and that’s why I like to golf with other juniors golfers from other countries. Much to my surprise, Venezuela has lots of young golfers. I noticed that they receive good help and guidance and they all love the sport. Sr. Eduardo also took me to the Sambil Mall to see the putting green where lots of children were putting and having so much fun. I was really glad to hear that Sambil Curaçao is going to get a similar putting green. I would love to help out with the putting green in Curaçao, making people enthusiastic about golf and letting them have an enjoyable time.”

The week went by much too quickly. The closing event on Sunday was a lot of fun. There were many prizes and it was really nice to see all the golfers together, having a great time.”

¿Will you come again?
Definitely! I really enjoyed the experience of being at the Sambil tournament. I missed the cut this time so unfortunately I did not play the final two days. I would love the opportunity to come again, play better and hopefully make the cut next time. Plus Venezuela is a beautiful country! “

¿What do you want from golf?
Since I am the only competitive junior golfer in Curaçao, there are no junior ranking competitions on the island. Also the coaching is limited. In order to compete against my peers on a regular basis and get proper guidance, I’d like to attend a golf academy in the United States this coming school year. Afterwards I’d like to join the golf team at college that is both good in sports and academics. My ultimate dream is to someday represent Curaçao in the Olympics and at professional PGA tournaments. I am looking forward to put in the work required to reach my goal.”

In the summer of 2015, I participated in a one week camp at the IMG academy. On the last day the head coach asked me to come to his office and he offered me a partial scholarship. In October I attended a one-week camp at another academy, GGGA. It is amazing how much my game has improved during just that one week. After I had successfully trained and played with the students in the advanced group, GGGA also offered me a spot at their academy.”

Unfortunately, these academies cost a lot of money, even with a partial scholarship. Many students at these academies have the financial support of their national golf federation or major companies. Curaçao has neither of these two. So I am looking for people, organizations and companies who would like to donate funds so that I can go to such an academy in September 2016. I also hope to inspire others, especially children, to start playing golf.”

¿Do you think golf is important to Curaçao?
Curaçao is a small island, but people from more than 50 nationalities live here. When one of us “Yu di Kòrsou” (children of Curaçao) does well, we all stand proudly together and are inspired to reach for our own dreams as well. There are quite a few baseball players in the major league who are from Curaçao. Once a year Andrew Jones and his friends return to the island and organize baseball training for the youth. Last year, we all cheered when a young tennis-player from Curaçao, Jean-Julien Rojer, won at Wimbledon. And after Shurandy Martina broke records abroad and ran in the Olympics, many children put on their running shoes and joined that sport. When they and others do well, we show that a small country can be great too. Many people abroad haven’t even heard of Curaçao but after seeing these successful Curaçao athletes, they become curious and interested.”

“Like baseball, tennis and athletics, golf is getting more popular worldwide. Major golf tournaments can be viewed on tv and people read all about golf in Fairway Magazine and similar publications. Imagine what it will be like if I place Curaçao on the map in the world of golf. A few months ago I was featured in a local newspaper. And now this interview in Fairway Magazine will be read by people outside of Curaçao. This drives me even more to be the best golfer I can be.”

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