Pearman recalls historic feat
Keith Pearman celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of the crowning moments of his illustrious career last week.
Pearman, then the Ocean View amateur, upstaged favourite Louis Moniz to become the first black Bermudian to win the coveted Belmont Invitational at Belmont Hills in the tournament’s original matchplay format.
The historic feat was achieved just two years after the desegregation of local golf.
“In 1969 when the guys from Ocean View received an invite from Belmont to play in the Belmont Invitational, you don’t know how happy we were just to get out and get in the mix of things,” Pearman recalled.
“I used to play with a guy Gilbert ‘Butch’ Lindo. We used to practise every day and hit balls and learn to play golf, but we never competed against one another. This was a time when we were ready. Myself, Eardley Jones, Peter Tucker, Noel Van Putten, all those guys we were looking for action.
“I came up and shot 78 and qualified. In the first round I was against a taxi driver. I knew I could take him out; he wasn’t supposed to stay with me that long.
“The next guy I got was Bermuda’s legend Eardley Jones. Eardley was a keen fighter. He fought hard and dug deep, but I managed to edge him.
“The next guy was the great Louis Moniz. You look on that trophy [the Gosling’s International Invitational] and see maybe nine or ten times he’s owned that trophy. I had watched him play and that was it.
“We came out and the course was set up with the first two par fives.
“I went par, birdie and he went birdie, eagle, so I’m two down in two holes and I got to shake my head now and say, ‘Keith, you got to go. Dig deep’.”
After pulling himself together, Pearman chipped away at Moniz’s lead before surging ahead and clinching the title.
“I hung in there and around the back nine I got close to him, one up, and we were going up 13,” Pearman added.
“The old 13 that’s pitched up the hill and he missed a putt up there and I think we halved the hole.
“I went birdie, birdie, par and had him two down and two to go and I’m saying to myself, ‘He may beat Butch, but he’s not going to beat me’, and I ended up being the winner.”
Kim Swan, the former European Tour player and only local to win three Bermuda Open titles, said Pearman’s iron play was what “set him apart” from the rest.
“Keith Pearman practised an awful lot at Ocean View,” Swan said. “He was a Devonshire boy and he used to practise a lot in the Orange Valley area of Ocean View Golf Course.
“There’s a big poinciana tree down on the left-hand side, so he used to hit balls down there a lot.
“Keith was a very good ball striker and an exceptional iron player. His iron play set him apart in my opinion.
“He had a very good grip and his hand positioning was deliberately forward up by his left leg and he drove down and through the ball with exceptional ball striking in that regard.
“His speciality was knock-down shots in the wind. We used to call him ‘bat them down’. He was a maestro when it came to that shot.”
Pearman eventually turned professional and became a respected golf teacher and club pro at the Mid Ocean Club.
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