Eye on the Ball: Sid Beckwith for Sportsman of the Year

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO Sid "Ironman' Beckwith
BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO | Sid “Ironman’ Beckwith

In covering sports in over 100 Reporter columns, there is one remarkable feat that rises above the others.

Right under our noses we have an Islander who has accomplished something not even the world’s best sports figures have come close to achieving. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe anyone has accomplished in golf what our own Sid Beckwith has.

He took the toughest feat in golf and made a joke out of it. As of this writing, Sid has shot his age 1,040 times. I was sorry I couldn’t join the celebration at Green Valley Golf Club in Florida when he hit the 1,000 mark on October 27, 2014.

Somehow in acknowledging great feats, we overlook the fact that people not on the national stage can do great things. I believe all people should be recognized for accomplishing great things and more so when it’s done multiple times. For instance, bowling a 300 game is rare but bowling a 300 game over 1,000 times after the age of 72 is ridiculous. Shooting your age in golf is even rarer than a 300 game in bowling.

I feel strongly that 96-year-old Sid Beckwith, just an everyday golfer and an everyday guy, should be named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 “Sportsman of the Year.”

Sid is one of our own Island boys and should have national recognition for his achievements, but he doesn’t. Yes, he has been mentioned in newspapers and magazines, but to me that’s not enough. The problem is that he has not done it on a national stage, and some folks say they have done it more times. Somehow, I don’t think so, and in my position, I happen to have witnessed at least half of his rounds.

I remember the party we had at the Chequit Inn when he shot his age 100 times. Some people joked they would host the next party when he reached 200 times, because in their minds, that would be a goal he couldn’t reach. Wow, did he ever prove them wrong.

I was the golf professional at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club for 50 years. I was around when Sid, or as I aptly named him, “the Iron Man,” hit his age both for the first time and just before he hit 1,000 times. Can we believe that others have the same qualifications as our Iron Man? I doubt it. Here are eight reasons why Sid’s record is legit.

You be the judge:

1. I always had a tally sheet on the clubhouse wall for all to see. Sid or I would cross off another number every time he shot his age or better.

2. He will not take a gimme putt. With a few of the gimmes, he would have shot his age around 2,000 times.

3. He always enjoys playing golf with different groups of three or four players.

4. The two main golf courses he plays are both championship courses: Green Valley Country Club in
Clermont, Florida and Gardiner’s Bay here. One course is over 6,300 yards and the other is over 6,600 yards.

5. He shot one stroke over his age at least 500 times.

6. Everyone he plays with is aware of his goal for the day and they willingly attest his scorecard. No round was played alone or unattested.

7. He does not play winter rules unless the golf course requests it.

8. He has used a different swing for every score. Many rounds, even though a right-handed golfer, he putted left-handed.

If you think he’s an old man just because he has lived 20 years past the life expectancy of a U.S. male, here is the rest of the story. Sid has a 96-year-old live-in girlfriend, Helen Baillies, who has also shot her age many times. Although Helen stopped playing this year, the two of them go swimming in Bill Dickerson’s pool almost every day in the summer along with a daily exercise routine when they are not out on their boat.

One of Sid’s secrets is that he doesn’t eat junk food, but lots of fruit along with maintaining a regular exercise program. It wasn’t long ago when he was running every year in the Island’s 10K races.

His talents don’t stop at golf since he is, without a doubt, the best joke teller at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, an excellent bridge player and has played the lead role in many Shelter Island and Clermont plays. He also has time to be a loyal fan of the Orlando Magic and the Boston Red Sox.

For the 53 years I’ve known him, his obsession has always been to find the perfect golf swing. He will change his swing at any moment if he feels it will improve his game. I’ve watched him with everything from flat swings to upright swings. When he left for Florida this year, it was an upright swing. I have no idea what the swing looks like now but we can be sure it will be different.

More importantly, Sid Beckwith is always happy on the golf course and will play with anyone. He was the president of our club in 1961 and he and his neighbor Bill Dickerson fought a hard battle with the rest of the board just to hire me. That was a huge favor they did and today, in return, they are the only two remaining members of the club from that time. I’m proud to say that the three of us have always remained true friends, and have supported each other as real buddies are supposed to do.

Now that you have read the above, I hope I have influenced you in some way. I hope you will at least join me in agreeing that an everyday Joe like Sid Beckwith should be considered, if not chosen, as “Sportsman of the Year.”