Sid Beckwith is an inspiration 1,000 times over


Golfer Sid Beckwith, 96, reached a milestone Oct. 27 when he shot his age or better for the 1,000th time.
Golfer Sid Beckwith, 96, reached a milestone Oct. 27 when he shot his age or better for the 1,000th time. (David Whitley/staff)

CLERMONT — Madison Bumgarner got Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award. With all due respect to him, Russell Wilson, Rory McIlroy and other stars, I’ll take Sid Beckwith.

He plays golf six days a week and has a girlfriend. Those factors alone make him the envy of millions of men. Sid also happens to be 96, though this Sportsman candidacy isn’t just a feel-good ploy.ADVERTISING

In 2014, Sid teed it up and boldly went where only a handful of humans have gone. Heck, Tiger Woods has never come within 20 shots of it.

On Oct. 27, Sid shot his age or better.

For the 1,000th time.

Basic math reveals how astounding that is. The average score of male golfers is 96. The life expectancy of U.S. males is 76.5.ADVERTISING

So the average golfer has been dead almost 20 years before he can realistically hope to pull a Sid. Pull it 1,000 times, and you have true Sportsman of the Year stuff.

Shooting your age requires crazy skills plus determination, and it inspires the masses to do the near-impossible.

How did the kid from Long Island do it?

“Luck, I guess,” Sid said.

There’s another Sportsman quality — humility. You want Old School?

Sid was born a day after the Bolsheviks killed the last Tsar of Russia. Sid was a caddie and never had a lesson, but the game came naturally.

After manning an anti-aircraft gun in the Pacific theater during World War II, he returned to Shelter Island, N.Y. He got married, had two kids, worked for the county health department and played a whole lot of golf.

“My wife would paint my golf balls with her fingernail polish so I could find them in the snowdrifts,” he said.

Sid retired in 1978 and started spending seven months a year in Clermont. He joined Green Valley Country Club, which is where he first cracked his age.

He was 72. His scorecard said 71.

Pretty soon he’d shot his age 100 times. Then 200. Then 300.

Don’t think Sid is some robo-golf nut, however. He’s performed in dozens of community-theater productions. He’s the club comedian at Green Valley. He rarely misses a Magic game on TV and sounds like a pro scout when he analyzes Tobias Harris’ offensive game.

He’s just a happy guy. But there were hard times when his wife developed Alzheimer’s.

“You’re depressed,” a doctor told him.

“I’m not depressed,” he said. “I’m just never going to put her in a nursing home.”

Instead, he took Geraldine golfing with him and cared for her until she passed away. She’s buried on Shelter Island, next to a marker with Sid’s name on it.

“They’re waiting on me,” he joked.

They’d better be patient. Sid exercises 20 minutes a day on an elliptical machine. His hearing has faded; otherwise there are few clues he’s older than Queen Elizabeth. He refuses to play from the senior tees, where men 30 years younger line it up.

Those guys think Sid should check his birth certificate. Then they see the ball fly.

We played a round last week with Green Valley pro Terry Govern. Almost 85 years after picking up his first hickory-shafted mashie, Sid is now getting coached.

“You were too steep coming down,” Govern told Sid after his tee shot on No. 11.

Sid has two of his 16 career holes-in-one on that hole. No matter, he still wants to get better.

“I’ll be 97 in July,” Sid said. “Give me a couple more years and I’ll have this game down.”

So if you need some inspiration, take it from a true Sportsman. What’s the best way to break your age?

Stop acting it.