A legion of young Bahamians are trotting a dusty path right now, vying to be the next ‘Golden Girl’ or “Fireman” Chris Brown. Most aren’t picking up golf clubs or shooting for birdies. Truth be told, The Bahamas has hosted more PGA tournaments than it has produced professional golfers, but Riccardo Davis is set to change that.
Climbing the hills at Paradise Island’s exclusive Ocean Club Golf Course, you could trace Davis’ 5’9” frame in the blazing sun. The rushing wind carried his chuckle and his slumped shoulders steadied for another drive. He is, by far, the most gifted golfer from The Bahamas.
It was at this golf course that Davis putted his first ball. Davis remembers passing by the Cable Beach golf course. Several feet away he spotted the golfer and burst into tears. He begged his parents to stop the car and let him play. Davis’ connection to the sport and persistence persuaded his parents to inquire about a junior golf program. He became the first in his family to play the sport.
“No one in our family has ever played golf,” Davis’ mother says with a smirk. “This was all for him. He cried for us to take him out and we were like, ‘What does he know about golf.’ He was just so sure that this is what he wanted to do.”
Short, scrawny and with as much athleticism as an old timer softball team, Davis had to wait until he was 8-years-old before joining the juniors program. With golf clubs as tall as he was, it was not until Davis was 16 that he could put power behind his swings and become a viable junior competitor.
Matriculating at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, Davis could no longer rely on his natural talent. He began developing his talent and managing his game to remain competitive.
As a freshmen competing against seniors, Davis quickly learned that talent alone would not carry him. In his second tournament of the season, Davis shot 69 and won. Before that, he was shooting 75.
He continued to mold his talent, manage his game and remain mentally sound.
“Once you know how to hit the ball, golf is 90 percent mental. You could be the best player in the world, if you’re mentally weak and can’t withstand the pressure of playing other great players, you won’t be there for very long.” Davis said.
To help maintain his mental confidence, Davis works with a mental coach, Gary Sales, who practices with his techniques (which, understandably, Davis was reluctant to share) to ignore the thousands of golf fans and focus on game strategy.
Additionally, the 26-year-old is coached by the Core Golf Academy. The coaching staff and the Director of Golf Operations, Jeff Hay are impressed with Davis’ positive attitude and competence.
“He possesses a nice feel for the game and an ability to score under pressure, which is key. His attitude is tremendous; very positive at all times, which will be very important as he continues to pursue a career in professional golf,” Hay says.
Davis finished in the top three at most national and regional golf tournaments, including first place at the Bahamas National Junior Championships for three consecutive years.
On the eve of a new golf season, Davis is determined to get a Professional Golfers’ Association tour card—a feat that no other Bahamian has obtained.
Last year, Davis advanced to the final round of a PGA qualifier in Longwood, Florida. In the second round, he came through with a round of 73, 2-over par to advance to the finals. Although he finished eight shots over par, Davis reveled in the fact that he competed with Tiger Woods, David Toms and other world-class athletes.
Davis spent every day last summer practicing for the season opener, the Florida Professional Golf Tour in Longwood, Florida. The next PGA Tour qualifier is next spring.
“I want to take my career to the highest of heights,” says Davis. “Golfers are never satisfied, but what would really make me happy is making it to the PGA tour and winning a major championship… to beat all the best players in the world at one specific time.”
Climbing from a sand dune at Ocean Club’s golf course, Davis reminisces on an 8-year-old kid who fell in love with a sport he knew nothing about.
It was for that reason that Davis and other former participants of the local junior golf program decided to share what they’ve learned in their career with other aspiring golfers. From the history of golf to the rules of play, today’s junior golfers are meeting every Saturday to learn from the best Bahamian golfers.
“We’ve all went to college and learned more about the game and wanted to transfer that knowledge to kids who are now interested in the game,” Davis says.
For as long as track and field is synonymous with The Bahamas so will our youth be attracted to that dusty path. For those that starved for the road less traveled, Davis hopes to grab a golf club and take to the greens, vying to be the next pro Bahamian golfer.