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Tributes paid to trailblazing golf ambassador Walter King

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Walter King, a golf pro and former Progressive Labour Party MP (File photograph)

Bermuda golf is mourning the passing of one of its greatest ambassadors and trailblazers who inspired many.

Former professional Walter King died on February 20 following a long bout with illness in North Carolina, where he resided at the time of his passing aged 75.

King initially became involved in the sport as a caddie at the former Castle Harbour Hotel & Golf Club and Mid Ocean Club while attending St George’s Secondary School.

It was during that time he learnt the rudiments of the game which served him well as he went on to make local golf history as the first Bermudian to win the former Bermuda Open when the prestigious tournament was integrated in 1970.

Lightning struck twice as King went on to make further history later that same year when he was appointed as the first head professional at Port Royal Golf Course.

During his time at the Southampton layout, King inspired and mentored many youngsters, among them Kim Swan, who would also become a Bermuda Open champion and showcase his talents on the European Tour.

“As a young teenager in 1971, I started coming up to Port Royal and gravitated to Walter King,” Swan said.

“Eventually I would accompany Walter King everywhere, and between he and Mrs Alora Rabain, learnt how to run the golf operation before I was 16 years old.

“I remember when Walter King took a car load of us children to Tucker’s Town to play golf in the Colonel Clarke Junior Championship.

“It was that type of exposure that led to me eventually winning championships and representing Bermuda at the Orange Bowl Junior Championship in 1974.”

Lasting legacy: Walter King (Photo supplied)

King also helped launch the career of future Bermuda Open and Belmont Invitational winner Dwayne Pearman.

“He was the one that got myself, Kim [Swan] and Cornell [Bean] playing golf,” Pearman said. “If it wasn’t for him a lot of us wouldn’t be playing golf.

“He used to take we guys out there and play with us and help us along a little.

“He was a big inspiration to all us. It’s sad to see that he has passed. He was a good guy.”

Walter King, a golf pro and former Progressive Labour Party MP (File photograph)

Pearman cited King’s superb ball-striking prowess among his biggest assets as a golfer.

“The guy was an awesome ball striker and I don’t think there was too many people who hit the ball as good as King,” he added. “He hit the ball really solid; a long way and he could play.

“I was young but I remember him quite well. I remember walking around watching him and it was a pleasure watching him at a young age.”

Bean, a multiple Bermuda Match Play Championship winner, also recalls those early days honing his skills at Port Royal during King’s watch.

“We were all new to the game and he allowed us to play and practise up there,” he said. “He let us practise and play up there and we just did a bit of work for him like pick up range balls.

“He always encouraged us to play and also took us to play in a couple of golf tournaments down at Mid Ocean and brought us back.”

Stephen Lambert Jr, the Port Royal head professional, said King served the club extremely well both on and off the golf course.

“He is the epitome of what Port Royal stands for,” Lambert said. “He was a great golf professional on and off the golf course and did the club proud wherever he went, or whatever tournament he played in, and really represented us in Bermuda.

“One of the greats is gone and the flag flies at half mast for him.

“We are mourning for sure and are all thinking of trailblazer Walter King.”

Offering their condolences was the ruling Progressive Labour Party, whom King served a term in the House of Assembly as a Member of Parliament.

“The Progressive Labour Party wishes to extend its condolences to the family of former PLP Member of Parliament, Mr Walter King,” read a party statement. “He was a PLP Member of Parliament for Hamilton East from 1976 to 1980.

“We thank Mr King for his service to Bermuda on behalf of the Progressive Labour Party. We extend our deepest condolences to his children Charryse and Kacy.”

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Published February 26, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated February 26, 2022 at 8:17 am)

Tributes paid to trailblazing golf ambassador Walter King

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