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Column: Remembering Shelter Island’s ‘Iron Man’

Early on the morning of Saturday, May 9, I got a call I had been dreading for a long time. It was from Father Peter, saying, ”Sid Beckwith passed at 4 a.m. this morning.”

Sid was as close to a legend at the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club (GBCC) as we are ever going to get. He would have been 102 in July.

Sid’s family consisted of his wife, Gerry, son, David, and daughter, Ceil. Just last week, David passed away. My love and prayers go out to Ceil and I know that her strong faith will help her through all this.

With Sid, I can only talk about his last 60 years, and I can assure you, in that time, no one had a more loyal friend than I did. Whether we agreed with each other or not, we always had each other’s back. We disagreed many times, but no one has ever seen us argue.

Our story began in 1961. Sid was the president of GBCC and his next-door neighbor, Bill Dickerson, was the green chairman. At that time, I was the young assistant golf professional at Southampton Golf Club and looking to move up.

As I look back, it seems I was always a problem for the club. Sid and Bill had to fight to get me the job, and 50 years later, they had to fight again for me to keep it.

The first fight was simply that the golf professional was supposed to be picked by the golf chairman, Gardner P. Dickerson. Gardner was taking his time interviewing golf professionals from all over Long Island while Sid and Bill played golf with the 21-year-old assistant from Southampton Golf Club.

Somehow, I convinced them that I would be a good choice for their head professional. But Gardner hated me. From day one he said he would do everything in his power to get me out. Sid and Bill fought hard, a side that many people never saw in these two guys.

Thank goodness they won and I hung around for the next 50 years until the next board had to fight to get me out. Sid and Bill’s loyalty to me was astounding. I never an argument with either one in 60 years. That is who they are to me. Once I had the job, I moved to a house between the two of them and every night was a golf clinic on Sid’s lawn.

I was young, but I learned a lot from these two. In those days, the club owned the golf shop and I managed it for them. Sid had to approve everything I ordered. I remember ordering six pair of socks for the shop and Sid saying, “Do you think you can sell six pair this year?” Those of us that knew him, also knew how frugal he could be. It was said that he threw nickels around like they were manhole covers.

Many of you didn’t realize what a fine thespian he was. He almost always played the leading role in the many plays that were put on by our local groups. He played them to perfection, and he loved it.

He was also always prepared with a joke. He was such a funny man. When we had joke time at the end of all Mixed Twosome tournaments, the rule was, Sid had to go last. No one could follow Sid Beckwith and he was the only one allowed to tell two jokes. If the story needed an accent, he did it. His timing was scary good. He loved to make you laugh and we loved to see his smile.

Few people knew that in his late 60s, he was still running in the annual 10K Race. He was always in good condition and never complained about the aches and pains that go with old age. If you talked about age, he would not join in the conversation.

He was an excellent golfer, but one of the Dickersons always seemed to knock him out in the club championships. It was in golfing circles that he really shined. I don’t believe anyone could top the times that he shot his age.

Shooting your age is one of the toughest things to do in golf. I’m a professional and have only accomplished the feat three times and don’t believe I’ll ever do it again. Sid approached 1,500 times shooting his age, and why he earned his nickname: “The Iron Man.” And this Iron Man never got a chance to rust.

No one who has that title did it the way he did. He always played in a group and his score was always attested. No gimmees, he putted everything out and his daily record was displayed on the clubhouse wall for all to see.

Guinness records say that there are people who have shot their age more than Sid. I’m willing to bet they didn’t do it as honestly as our Iron Man.

Outside of his family, Sid’s passion was golf. He loved the game, its rules, the challenge, and the friendships it created throughout his life. I never met anyone who could play as much golf in retirement as Sid. No one has tried more different swings, looking for the answer. On the front nine he would have an upright swing and the back nine a flat one. God, if you’re listening, please show him the answer. No one deserves it more. But don’t be surprised if he changes it in three holes.

Sid played golf year-round between Gardiner’s Bay and his other favorite place, Clermont, Fla. The way we saw him is exactly the way golfers there saw him.

I always admired something else about Sid, something different from most people. He’d play with anyone and have a ball. He never said to me, “Don’t hook me up with that one.” His love of good fun, with any playing partner, was legendary.

To Sid, my advice is if you are finally given that answer to your golf swing, don’t change it.

I love you, pal.