Camiko Smith has waited a long time to make his PGA Tour debut.
He’ll do so this week at the Bermuda Championship at Port Royal after winning a qualifier earlier this month. But there’s a little more to the story for Smith, 35, who grew up on the island.
Bermuda relies heavily on tourism and when the country went into COVID-19 lockdown, visitor spending plummeted, according to The Royal Gazette. It reports that the island generated $201 million from April to June 2019, but in the same period in 2020, just $300,000.
As the economy there started to recover, Smith did what he could to make ends meet.
“After we came out of lockdown, just been working for a glass company called Commercial Glass,” he said. “The last three months I’ve pretty much just been working. But I kept my game sharp. I would go to the gym early mornings, like 4 in the morning, and I would go work from 7 to about 4:30 and after that hit some balls, just keep my swing loose.”
Smith will make his Tour debut on a course he used to sneak on to—and get kicked off of—as a child, learning how to play the game, often after the sun went down. When it got dark, he used flashlights to continue practicing.
“It’s my backyard,” Smith said of Port Royal. “So I actually hop over a fence and I’m right on it. I used to get kicked off for doing that, now I’m sitting here playing a PGA Tour event in my backyard, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Smith’s family had a house on the fourth hole.
“I would be basically 7, 8 at night 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.”
Smith says the course has changed a bit over time.
“It used to be a very tree-lined golf course and now it’s more open. The rough’s pretty thick, which is new. It didn’t usually have it like that,” he said.
He also knows a little something about that fourth hole.
“The first shot brings a bunker into play on the right fairway. If you take driver and try to blast it over it, you can block it into some bushes or you can pull it into my yard out of bounds. No. 4, it’s been tricky. Can’t give too much information about it before the tournament. Local knowledge, got to keep some of it to myself.”
He’s one of three Bermudians who qualified to get in the tournament, which is a stand-alone event this week. It was originally supposed to be staged opposite the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, but that tournament was canceled. This week also happens to be the 50th anniversary for Port Royal.