William Dickson (Dick) Smith,
Walker Cup golfer and managing director
Born: 2 February 1918, in Glasgow
Died: 25 January, 2002 in Troon, aged 83
IN HIS early years, Dick Smith attended Hillhead High School, where he enjoyed many sports, including rugby. The family used to spend their summer holidays in Prestwick, and that was where Dick started his interest in golf - at the old St Cuthbert Course beside the airport.
On leaving school in 1935, he went to Glasgow University. Surprisingly, Dick was the Scottish Inter-Varsity flyweight boxing champion in 1937/38. He was 5ft 10in and weighed 8st 2lb.
He graduated MA in 1938 and joined the Glasgow law firm of Forbes Robertson and Lilley for a three-year indenture. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War but he did eventually graduated at LLB in 1943.
He joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner and then bombardier and worked his way up to the rank of sergeant. He then volunteered to become a pilot with the Air Observation Post (AOP) and flew single Austers ("like the eye in the sky"), directing artillery fire but with no armoury on board and no parachute. One day he was chased by a German Messerschmit. Ever-resourceful, Dick spotted a hill nearby and managed to evade the larger plane by dodging around the hill for ten minutes before it gave up and departed.
Towards the end of the war, he was stationed in India and managed to win the Indian Amateur Golf Championship at Royal Calcutta, beating the local favourite, IS Malik, 6 and 5 in the final. The trophy he won is now played for annually, between Prestwick and Royal Troon in the "cross-country" match.
After the war, Dick was dispatched to the Borders to work in Heather Mills, Selkirk, in which the family had an interest. The chairman and managing director both died not long after Dick’s arrival and he was thrust into the managing director’s role, which he retained all his working life. He was made an honorary sheriff and occasionally served on the bench dispensing justice locally.
Dick never married. Golf was his true love and at his peak he was a member of ten courses - Selkirk, Longniddry, Elie, Southerness, Powfoot, Gullane, Carlisle, Royal Troon, Prestwick and the R&A. His routine was to play the courses in the east coast and the west coast on alternative weekends. At Selkirk, he was captain, president or life president for over 40 years and he served on the Rules of Golf Committee of the R&A for many years.
He held the course record at various courses, including Selkirk, Gala, Elie and Girvan and in October 1954 he broke the course record at Prestwick twice in the one day - 71 in the morning and 69 in the afternoon - equalling the then professional record to win the Eglinton Medal for the autumn meeting. He was a scratch golfer for 40 years.
The highlights of his golf career took place between 1957 and 1959. In the 1957 Open at St Andrews, he was fifth behind Bobby Locke and won the Silver Medal as leading amateur. The next year, he won the Scottish Amateur at his beloved Prestwick, beating Ian Harris in the final in torrential rain. Dick was almost unbeatable at Prestwick, where the members nicked him "The Collector". This national success earned him selection to the Scottish team in 1958 and to the Walker Cup team in the following year, when he had the unique experience of playing the youngest member of the American team, 19-year-old Jack Nicklaus.
Although both Dick and the team lost, Jack devoted a whole chapter of his autobiography, The Greatest Game of All, to the 1959 Walker Cup and described his singles match as follows:
"I played Dick Smith, a bald-headed fellow of 41 with a little moustache, an affable courteous man and a darn good fighter. At one time it looked like I would win by a huge margin. I was five up at lunch after a 70 in the morning and then won the first three holes in the afternoon. Dick then began to play the pants off Muirfield. He threw four birdies at me and was still coming on strong when the match ran itself out on the 32nd."
They met on several occasions subsequently and played golf at Whitecraigs and Jack always recognised him and greeted him warmly with a firm handshake. Jack never forgot his only Walker Cup - and neither did Dick.
His appearance in the Walker Cup led to an invitation to the US Masters at Augusta, which he declined as he did not wish to take more time off work.
Dick used to holiday in Estoril, Portugal, where he met up with his old friend, Brodie Lennox, who had a country club there. On two occasions during these visits he won the Portuguese Amateur Championship, thus completing a unique treble of three national championships - India, Portugal and Scotland.
Dick had successes with the ladies at golf, notably Betty Singleton from Prestwick, with whom he won the Worplesdon Trophy after many years of trying. He also won the Scottish Seniors.
He retired to Troon in 1983 and restricted his golf to a mere five days a week. Golf was a main part of his life and he never tired of it.