When Camiko Smith steps to the tee at the Bermuda Championship on Thursday, it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream.
The 35-year-old Bermuda native grew up playing Port Royal Golf Course, getting his start in the game with a single club from the course’s caddie shack. It only seems fitting Port Royal serves as the site of his first career start on the PGA Tour.
“Definitely very excited,” Smith told reporters on Tuesday. “To have it on my island, on my home course … Really looking forward to it.”
This moment for Smith nearly came a year earlier as he led the local qualifier coming down the back nine last fall. But several ill-timed mistakes doomed his chances. This year’s qualifier was a story of redemption. Rounds of 70 and 71 easily garnered medalist honors as he played his way into the tournament taking place in his backyard — literally.
Of all the players in the field this week, Smith likely had the shortest commute. With a home just off the 4th hole, he merely has to jump a fence (something he used to get in trouble for in his younger days) and he’s on site.
Local knowledge will certainly favor him, but during the Covid-19 pandemic it’s been tough to get in as many rounds as he normally would. With the financial uncertainties of this year and less tournaments than usual, he took a job with a commercial glass company installing doors, windows and mirrors in homes and commercial buildings.
But he’s still been able to keep his game sharp. A typical day starts at 4 a.m. with a trip to the gym, followed by work from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From there it’s straight to the golf course for his “other” job. The routine was a grind, but Smith credits it with helping him refocus and keeping his drive alive.
“My boss was gracious enough to give me time off to prepare for the qualifier,” he said. “Gave me two weeks off to prepare for it. I told him, ‘Hey, look, if I get in, another two weeks off.’ He called me and said, ‘You’ve got another two weeks off.’ He’s pretty stoked about it.”
That grind is nothing new for Smith, though. From the time he received his first club from the caddie shack in his youth, he’s been dedicated to the game. Firing balls with his single club turned into weekend rounds with a full set. Like so many others, Smith credits Tiger Woods’ win at the 1997 Masters as inspiration for his chase.
Smith eventually turned professional in 2013 and has bounced between Texas and Florida, honing his game on mini tours as he chases the ultimate dream of the PGA Tour. This week will be the next in many steps toward that goal as he tees it up at Port Royal as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of the course.
“It’s pretty interesting how everything just falls into place,” Smith said. “It’s a humbling experience for that to happen at this time. Just looking forward to making everybody proud, make myself proud and my family and the island proud.”