Smith determined to reach PGA Tour
Camiko Smith has not wavered from his dream of playing on the PGA Tour, despite the many obstacles facing the 33-year-old professional golfer.
It is the same determination he started showing when he first got interested in golf, jumping the fence bordering Port Royal Golf Course in order to play a few holes, despite being chased off the course by the ranger.
Smith shared his passion for the sport with Rotarians during the Hamilton Rotary Club’s luncheon yesterday at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. The son of former Cup Match cricketer Clevie Wade and the nephew of runner Kavin Smith, Smith played a bit of football and cricket as a youngster, but it was golf that got his attention with the Port Royal course next door.
“I had a family friend who used to hit balls in my yard and I would watch out of the window and be intrigued by it,” he remembers.
“I was young, like 5, and when I was 9 at Southampton Glebe Primary School, we had a gym class and had to go to the driving range in Southampton and hit balls with Eardley Jones and Lloyd James; great golfers at that time.
“From there I ventured up to Port Royal Golf Course to see if they had any golf clubs around I could have. The caddie master said, ‘Sure, I’ll give you a club, but first you have to hit the ball’. His name is Teddy Greaves, he took me under his wing and every weekend he would have me at Port Royal and we would play six holes, nine holes, 18 holes, hitting balls every day.
“When I became a teenager, I worked at Port Royal in the caddie shop under Frank and Rawn Rabain who were very helpful in my career. Michael Sims was out there playing great golf and would tell me to just go out there and hit balls. I would hit balls at 6am before work, practise putting and then go to work.
“When I knocked off at about 7 o’clock, it was dark, but I would grab a bucket of balls and use the lights they had above the green and would hit balls. Being my house was so close I would then walk home.
“I kept working at it and joined the junior golf league when I was 12.
“Eventually, I set my sights on becoming a professional golfer and playing in the PGA Tour, looking at Tiger Woods winning the Masters in 1997, with the fist pumping which looked pretty cool.
“Between that, I worked at Belmont [Hills] to save up some money with my goal of going across to Orlando, with Alan Richardson and Rawn Rabain pushing me to get out of the island.”
Smith added: “Orlando is basically the golfing ‘Mecca’, so I ventured to Orlando to work with Fred Griffin at Grand Cypress Golf Academy where he worked with Jack Nicklaus and a lot of well-known, great golfers.
“Under his tutelage in my first year, there he took my game from mediocre to pretty good. That was the beginning of me chasing my professional career on the PGA Tour.
“In between, I played in smaller events on the mini tour, a few small events in New England and Orlando, even as far as California on the west coast.
“After my tutelage with Fred, I came back to Bermuda and played in the Grey Goose Par 3 a few years ago and had my best finish, tied for second with Michael Sims, one shot off the lead.
“That was a jump-start to my career and from there I’ve been pushing at it with some obstacles here and there.”
In 2017, Smith had a solid showing at the Gosling Invitational, earning $3,265 after tying for fifth overall as the best local player as he shot a second round seven-under par 64 that equalled Masters winner Adam Scott’s course record at Port Royal.
Smith came within three shots of overall winner Daniel Gaunt’s lead before falling off the pace during the final two rounds at Belmont Hills Golf Club.
“Being able to meet so many people along the way has helped me a lot,” Smith admits. “Alan Richardson has been a massive part of my growth in golf and in life. I owe a lot to him.”
Funding remains a challenge for Smith, who has been back in Bermuda since December. One member asked him how he supported himself while pursuing his golf dream.
“Currently, I do not have a regular job; I find work where I can,” he admitted. “The Bermuda PGA just started an event, so I’m playing in a few of their events. That’s how I make money. I coach kids and do give lessons on the side as well.
“I’m in the process of looking for sponsors to help me get overseas to play in these events. You have to be in to win it.
“I’m giving back to junior golf; when I’m in Bermuda, I coach kids at Port Royal on Saturday mornings. I grew up at Port Royal, love that place; it’s my home course.
“I had to jump the fence to play there. There was a ranger there, Bobby McRonald, who passed away recently, who used to chase me off the course. I would see him coming in the golf cart and I’d get off and come back when he drove off.
“At night there was a streetlight next to hole four and I would play there, practising my bunker shots until my mom would call me. That was my way of getting my practice at a golf club because I was never a member. I just couldn’t afford it.
“The guy who grew up next to a golf course where he used to jump the fence now has dreams of making it on the PGA Tour. I’m just taking the steps I have to take to get there.”
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