SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – Camiko Smith’s childhood home abuts the fourth hole at Port Royal GC, site of this week’s Bermuda Championship.
“I actually hop over a fence, and I’m right on it,” Smith said. “I used to get kicked off for doing that.”
This week, the Bermuda native will literally tee it up in his own backyard.
Earlier this month, Smith won a Bermudian qualifier – by five strokes – to earn his first career PGA TOUR start this week at Port Royal GC. Also advancing from the local qualifier were Michael Sims and Anthony Phipps.
For Smith, 35, it marks a memorable achievement in a persistent, perseverant career.
The eight-year pro has maintained his dream via various income sources – assistant pro, lessons on the side, mini-tour earnings.
For the past four months, he has worked for a Bermuda-based glass company, Commercial Glass & Aluminum.
“Basically installing doors, windows, storm shelters, different things like that,” Smith said. “Putting mirrors in people’s houses and commercial buildings.
“I play golf, and I’m working with glass. I guess it’s touch-and-go sometimes. I’ve got to be very, very cautious, but it’s definitely helped me along the way, just keeping my passion and drive alive.”
A typical day for Smith: hit the gym at 4 a.m. Full workday at Commercial Glass, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Hit balls afterward – “just keep my swing loose.”
Smith expressed appreciation to his manager for providing two weeks off to prepare for and compete in the Bermudian qualifier.
“I told him, ‘Hey, look, if I get in, another two weeks off.’”
He shot a two-round total of 1-under at Port Royal, five clear of second place.
“He called me and said, ‘You’ve got another two weeks off, here you go.’ He’s pretty stoked about it.”
As Smith navigates Port Royal this week – beginning 1:35 p.m. AT Thursday with Ben Taylor and Seth Reeves, off No. 10 – he’ll draw on childhood memories.
He remembers as a 5-year-old, seeing family friends hitting golf balls in his backyard – Port Royal’s fourth hole – and becoming intrigued. At age 9, he walked into the Port Royal caddie shop and “basically said, ‘Hey, guy, can I possibly have a golf club?’”
That guy, Teddy Greaves, provided a club to try. Later it was range access, course access, playing together on the weekends.
“A lot of gratitude toward him,” Smith said of Greaves. “(Without him), I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Concurrently, Smith honed his game at home.
“Seven o’clock, eight at night, I would basically be on the putting green under the streetlights, putting, chipping, hitting balls. Putting a flashlight up at a flag, hit balls at it, putt at it. That’s it right there, man. No. 4 is my yard.”
Under the tutelage of Greaves, Smith steadily got better. In 2013, while working at Bermuda’s Belmont Hills GC, he turned pro. He kept working for a while, accruing savings.
Eventually, Smith traveled to Florida, working with Fred Griffin at the Grand Cypress Academy and practicing at North Shore GC. He then migrated to Dallas, working with Carlos Brown at Hackberry Creek CC.
This past February, Smith flew from Dallas to Bermuda for a par-3 event at Turtle Hill GC.
Then, the hiatus.
“It threw everybody a monkey wrench,” Smith said.
Smith stayed in Bermuda through the hiatus and began work at Commercial Glass while preparing for the Bermuda Championship qualifier.
Next year, he plans to spend time between Orlando and Dallas while competing on the Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour (APGA).
However life unfolds, he’ll cherish this week forever.
“To have it on my island, on my home course, right in my neighborhood, front yard, backyard, it’s super exciting,” Smith said. “Just looking forward to making everybody proud. Make myself proud, and my family and the island proud.”
Source: PGA tour