Bermuda PGA Highlights Keith Smith

March 8, 2021 | 1 Comment

The Bermuda PGA recently launched a series titled ‘Getting To Know Bermuda’s Golf Professionals’ to highlight local golfers, with their latest story focusing on Keith Smith.

A spokesperson said, “If ever a player personified the struggle of golf in Bermuda it is Keith Smith, a Bermuda Tournament Professional who proudly qualified alongside Kim Swan to send tiny Bermuda to the World Cup of Golf for the first time in the country’s history.

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Tuckers Town Pro from Ocean View Golf Club

“Keith Smith is often linked to Ocean View Golf Course and admits that watching Ocean View Pro Frank Rabain play in the 1971 British Open in England was one of his greatest golf experiences. Keith would later serve as Ocean View Head Groundsman [a role held by his son David at Belmont] and often represent Ocean View Golf Club as their designated Golf Professional in golf events.

“But Keith was very much a product of Mid Ocean Club and Castle Harbour golf courses in Tuckers Town. Keith grew up caddying and golfing there during pre 1967 period when golf in Bermuda was rigidly segregated. This often overlooked era of golf in Bermuda produced many exceptional black golfers who were denied the opportunity to compete equally as human beings.

Tuckers Town Family Connection

“Ironically, Keith Smith’s family background is from the black community who were displaced from the Tuckers Town community, often referred to as Harris Bay. His family consisted of the Smiths, Talbots, and Trotts.

“Keith credits top players Cyril ‘Dempsey’ Wainright and George ‘Buck’ Raynor as his golf teachers. Keith grew up in an era where top international players visited Bermuda and golfed at the famous Tuckers Town golf courses.

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“When you get to interact and observe great players like Gary Player and Archie Compston, you get the opportunity to learn a great deal. In fact, Keith used to caddy for Gary Player and his wife Vivienne and also shag balls for the great Archie Compston before there was a driving range at Mid Ocean Club.

“Keith Smith’s route of development in golf was not a glamorous one. Black Bermudian golfers growing up playing golf pre-1967 in Bermuda were predominantly caddies or persons working in around the hospitality industry, save and except for black professionals who were limited to playing Ocean View Golf Course when the Ocean View Golf Club gained control of the golf course in 1950.

“Added to the challenge faced by black golfers was the policy adopted by the Bermuda’s governing body, who at that time that labeled all caddies as professional golfers in spite of their level of proficiency.

“Thankfully for Keith Smith, his ability matched that of any top amateur golfer, but the label at that time would ensure that he and other talented caddies would not be eligible to participate in amateur golf events and without and professional status they would remain displaced.

“The Bermuda Professional Golfers Association [BPGA] have to thank those top golfing caddies – Keith Smith, Winslow Wales, Rogers Outrebridge and Eddie ‘Updo’ Darrell – for advocating for a professional golf body that embraces a playing category.

“Ironically, the eventual formation of the Bermuda Professional Golfers Association in the 1970’s would provide a constitution that included players division, it was based on players’ current playing ability and not all those in need of membership were initially included, this in spite of past performances.

“Keith Smith credits the late George Stobie, former General Manager at Castle Harbour, who held meetings at his Tuckers Town residence for young black non-amateur golfers desirous of starting a Bermuda Professional Association; Keith Smith, Curtis Fleming, Rogers Outerbidge, Eddie ‘Updo’ Darrell who were among the players whose advocacy was the catalyst for Bermuda’s Club Professionals eventually banding together to launch the Bermuda PGA.

Keith Smith Bermuda March 2021

Keith Excels in the Integrated Golf Era

“For Keith Smith, who was aged 21 in 1967 when segregation in golf was removed, a new future was about to be revealed, but he and his stateless caddy peers would still have to fight for their survival as the discontinuation of law doesn’t immediately change a mindset.

“Keith Smith was among the earliest playing members who qualified for membership in the early 1970s when the Bermuda PGA was founded and remains the surviving member to this day having recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

“We the members of the Bermuda PGA owe Keith Smith a debt of gratitude for providing a vehicle for upward mobility in a industry haunted by the Caucasian only rule from 1933 to 1961, which prevented Keith’s predecessors from realizing their true potential.

Tuckers Town Caddy Wins Bermuda Open

“A modest Keith Smith who openly credits watching Bermudian Frankie Rabain play in the 1971 British as one of the special moments in his golf career, would later go on make history in his on right

“In 1976 when Keith Smith won the Bermuda Open, he would fill the footsteps of fellow Bermuda PGA members Walter King & Frank Rabain, but Keith’s victory produced a euphoric atmosphere within the working class community.

Kim Swan recalls, “I remember leaving the Belmont where I worked at and riding my bike to Keith’s victory celebration at Harrington Workman’s Club in Devils Hole. “

“Wow !! it was like an Eastern County Cup celebration in Harris Bay. I had never seen anything like it in Bermuda golf before.”

Bermuda Win 1984 World Cup Qualifying in Tuckers Town

“Keith Smith’s own crowning moment in golf came in the 1984 World Cup Qualifying at Castle Harbour in Tuckers Town, Bermuda – a course he grew up caddying on, in a community from which his ancestors were compulsorily removed.

“It was Keith’s second attempt at qualifying for the World Cup of Golf; he and Kevin Benevides [now Director of Golf at Mid Ocean Club] represented Bermuda for the first time at the World Cup of Golf Qualifying at Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico.

“Following the introduction of a comprehensive performance points system, Kim Swan and Keith Smith were selected to represent the Bermuda PGA. The hosting of the World Cup Qualifying at Castle Harbour, the event itself was a major achievement for the Bermuda Professional Golfers Association [BPGA].

“The support the Bermuda PGA received from President Terrence Branon, members John Mason and the Castle Harbour Resort Team of Tom Smack, the Director of Golf, Pierre Roellinger, General Manager, David Ralston, Course Superintendent, and Kevin Benevides Assistant Golf Professional along with Kim Swan.

“Keith Smith’s journey is a true testament to those who came before him – especially the hundreds of Bermuda caddies between 1920 and 1967. Keith’s success is a true vindication of their struggle, trials and tribulations.

“Let us honour and salute Keith Smith while he is with us and let him know how proud we are of him.”

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  1. Anne MacIsaac MacIsaac says:

    The article is a testament to both a golf pioneer and a cultural pioneer. Keith’s daughter LJ is married to Greg Smith whose mom Lynn is presently visiting the family in Bermuda. The extended clan in Canada is proud to have Keith as a “star” Look forward to someday having the opportunity to meet you Keith. Anne and Mait MacIsaac

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