The Bermuda Government has made some drastic changes at the Ocean View Golf Club. They have rebuilt the golf course and built a new clubhouse but I’m afraid that the history of Ocean View and its old members will be forgotten forever if we don’t do something about it.
Too many times our past has been erased and there is nothing for the young people to hold on to, so I give you this little bit of history on behalf of the older members to pass on to our youth.
I feel that the interest shown by Governor Alexander Hood and Lady Hood was the beginning of the integration of the golf clubs. They spent many hours with us, playing golf, talking to our members, or listening to our hopes and dreams during World War Two. The Ocean View Course was taken over by the US Army and when the war ended, a golfer from Southampton decided to ask the governor for the course. I was not a member at that time, in fact, we did not even have a club, and so I have to go on hearsay about this period.
Bill Pitt, Sr. and Erskine Simons went to lawyer David Tucker on behalf of the golfers and asked him to approach the Government on their behalf about taking over Ocean View, but they were told it had to be leased to a Mr. Frank Wilson. However, they were allowed to go down there and play on what was left of it.
In the meantime, Mr. Peter Outerbridge, the father of Rogers Outerbridge, and Mr. Woody Brangman went to Mr. Wilson, and he agreed to rent it to the golfers. We would come down every weekend with our lawnmowers, rakes and hoes, and worked like beavers, until eventually we had a fairly decent course to play on. They then brought an old hut from the US Army, and that was the establishment of our first clubhouse.
Later, there was a fire and the clubhouse burnt down, but we just went straight to work and built a new one, near the same site where our present club stands today. It was at this time that Sir Alexander and Lady Hood began to visit us. They would play on our little course, and then join us for Bermuda fish chowder with black rum. Eventually, the Governor decided to pick a team from all other clubs to play against us. The tournament had to be played on our course, for you see, we were not allowed to play on their courses at that time.
The invitation was accepted, so we went to work with our hand tools, trimming and preparing the course, and painting the little clubhouse for this occasion. The visiting team was captained by Sir James Pearman and our team was led by our pro, Mr. Herman Bascome. Some of the players were: Bill Pitt Sr., Hubert Davis, Calix Darrell, Vernon (Speed) Lowe, Earl Lowe, Ellsworth (Crip) Darrell, Woody Brangman, Mr. E. Brownlow Place, Mr. Stuart Albuoy, myself and others. Peter Tucker and Frankie Rabain played as junior golfers at that time.
The first game was held in 1947. They lost to the skill of our players and the treacherous crab grass greens. Afterwards, they had lunch at our little “shack on the hill”, and a good time was had by all.
Having played our course, they then began to realize the conditions under which we were playing but nothing was done until 1953, when Her Majesty the Queen gave notice that she was about to visit the island. The government of that time, decided to rebuild the Ocean View, providing they could change the name to Queen’s Park. However, in 1956, they sent us a letter simply saying that they had run out of money, and we would have to finish the work ourselves. By this time, they had excavated areas of the property and there were large holes on the fairways, some of them 100 feet long by 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
We continued to play under these conditions, making our way around the piles of soil and holes almost big enough to bury a house. By this time, we had a new Governor, Sir Julian Gascoigne, who was an avid fisherman. As a member of the Blue Waters Anglers Club, I fished with him at least once a month. So at an Ocean View meeting, I was asked to speak with him about our problem. He suggested that we form a committee and then set up a meeting with him.
The meeting was held at the Government House and members of the House of Assembly were invited to attend. Prior to this, Gov. Gascoigne started to visit the golf course frequently, so most of them were very surprised to find out how much he knew about our problems. At the end of the meeting, he told them to find the money and get on with the job.
The project was finally finished in 1958, by which time I had become president of the club. Sir Julian, who had never played golf, came down and took lessons from Herman Bascome, and he was able to play on our opening day.
Sir Julian had come to the end of his term, and he told me that he would call the new Governor Lord Martonmere and have him contact me. I got the call the same day he arrived, and we met the following day. We became good friend, and he too came to Ocean View to take lessons from pro Bascome and later began to play with us.
We had now moved to our new clubhouse on Watlington Road in the premises which was originally ‘Watlington House’. We then talked to the governor about integrating the courses and it was decided to start games against the other clubs again. We now had a new clubhouse, a much better golf course and a wonderful lady, Mrs. Lillian Outerbridge, who prepared the most delicious food for us.
For three years, we hosted the games and wined and dined at our expense. It was decided that we should approach the other clubs about playing on their courses. I called Lord Martonmere and told him about our wishes, and he promised to get back to me.
In the meantime, we started to go to the newspapers. Eardley Jones and Conrad Henry appeared with members of the Golf Association on a talk show at ZFB and finally the public began to take us seriously.
I then got a call from the governor asking me to come to Government House at 10 o’clock the next morning. I arrived on time, and he met me at the door. He led me into his office and there on the table were two glasses and a big bottle of champagne. He said, “Hubert, I have some wonderful news for you. I was at the Mid Ocean Club where we discussed your concerns. I made the request that Ocean View members be allowed to play on the other courses, and to my pleasant surprise, every member stood as one, and stated that Mid Ocean would be the first to do so. Tell them we will be delighted to have them. So my friend, these two glasses are to celebrate our success. Go back and tell your members the good news, and may we continue to improve racial harmony on this beautiful island of Bermuda.”
The members of the committee that went to Government House were: Clarence Simons, Earl Lowe, Herman Bascome, Hubert Smith (chairman), our advisor was Dr. Eustis Cann. Officials of the club were: Hubert Davis (vice president), Herman Bascome (pro). Committee members: Clarence Simons, Herbert Simons, Woody Brangman, Peter Outerbridge, Vernon Lowe, Rogers Outerbridge, Lillian Outerbridge, Gerard Lespere, Lawrence Clarke, Noel Clarke, Clifford Richardson, Charles Baker, Hubert Simmons, Sinclair Lowe, George Lowe, Bill Pitt Sr., Henry Webb, Harry Hill, Charles Webb and many others.
When our club integrated, some of the first white members were Butch Lindo, Lionel Benevides, Dee Dee Sousa and Terry Brannon. The Police, the Navy and the Armed Forces were given membership at half price.
In 1968, I became the first black member at Belmont. In 1985, Quinton Edness, Alton Roberts, and I became the first black members at Riddell’s Bay. Today, all of the clubs are integrated.
Most of the old Ocean View members are now deceased, but I hope that this will always remind you of how we got to where we are today and that you will especially remember the old members who helped to make it happen.
Forgive me if I have excluded the names of some of the great guys who played at that time, maybe someone else will contribute some names. I would like to suggest that a list or a plaque be posted in the Ocean View Club naming all the past presidents and members in order to preserve the history of the club. I would be happy to assist in compiling the information.
Yes, we had many hard times, but there were also many good times and there were memories that will always be dear to me. Integrating the golf clubs in Bermuda is one of them. It has been one of the most successful and positive ways to help create racial harmony and I hope that it continues to make even greater progress.