“When the win was secured there was no time for the modern jump in the lake. No question of spraying the champagne . . . just put the bottles to the head and rejoice.
He was always a friendly face, always very fair. He was part of the fabric of Irish golf.
“He was admirable in every way and not least because of his steadfast devotion to story gathering and telling . . . even staying up until dawn in hotel and clubhouse bars seeking inspiration. He was one of a great generation of hardened newsmen.
“As time went by came the glamour days at British Opens, US Masters and Ryder Cups. But he never forgot his happy start with, for example, many years of attendance at the West of Ireland at Rosses Point.
“With the story filed and after a few drinks with his friends, he would drift into the darkness across the Greenlands towards his wee rented caravan for a short rest before getting back into the middle of the action.
“He’ll be in the action, waiting for his pals, when we follow him out-of-bounds. We will miss him greatly and express sympathy to his family on their loss.”
According to ‘Forgive Us Our Press Passes’, which recounts the history of the Association of Golf Writers, his old headmaster, upon hearing of Colm’s appointment, declared, “lt must be nepotism.” And it was.
“There was no formal training,” Colin recalled in those pages. “Just a five-year apprenticeship learning the trade. It was tough, but it was thorough. Not a bit of glamour.
“You were glad to get out of the office even if it was to cover the dog racing and then pick up the table tennis or badminton results later, but l graduated to higher-profile sports like currach racing in Galway Bay and lacrosse in Alexandra College.”
When he protested that he knew nothing about these sports, he was told: “Just ask. You’ll learn.”
Rugby was another great love and he never forgot how the Lions beat the Springboks in the 1974 series in South Africa, where the celebrations (as much as the rugby itself ) were to become the stuff of legend.
He recalled later how the noise from the celebration party reached such a deafening height, the hotel manager warned that he was bringing in the police:
“Willie John McBride, the massive Lions captain asked him, ‘Excuse me, sir, how many will there be?’ The manager stared for a moment, then burst out laughing. So did the Big Man.”
That trip to South Africa took place at the height of apartheid and it left its mark on Smithy, who arranged with Fergus Slattery to take a clandestine tour of the townships in a taxi.
“The segregation he saw shocked him an affected him deeply,” his friend Fr David Tuohy told the congregation at his funeral on Monday.
“A number of years later he was asked to speak at an ecumenical service for sports people at St Patrick’s Cathedral. His address included a moving account of that secret tour and his reaction to it.
“When he told me this story – indeed, every time he told me this story – he would then turn to me with that twinkle in his eye and say, ‘David, have you ever preached at St Patrick’s Cathedral?’
“Behind that gentle piece of gamesmanship, Colm was happy to have done some political journalism and built awareness of a serious injustice.”
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Colm Smith was born on 13th July, 1940 and sadly passed away on 30th November, 2018. His life was celebrated on 3rd December with his family and so many of his friends and former Association of Golf Writers (AGW) and newspaper colleagues present at the Church of the Holy Cross, Dundrum, Dublin.
Colm joined the AGW in 1971 and was an extremely proud member for just short of 50-years.
A very considerable number of Association of Golf Writers members paid tribute to Colm and they have been led by past AGW Chairman who served the Assoication while Colm was a member.
Mike McDonnell (Chairman 1978-82 and 1992-95)
I knew Colm for over 50 years as a colleague and a family friend.
I proposed him for AGW membership and he was largely instrumental in establishing our Home Internationals.
He had an impish sense of humour. Once when we were in O’Connell Street , Dublin, I asked: “Which side of the River Liffey are we on”? He replied: “This side.” Very droll. He had a great and enduring rapporte with Irish golfers at all levels. But above all, he was good company.
After one boisterous evening in Dublin – where else?- I asked:” What time did we turn in last night?” He thought for a moment:” About half past” Pause: “But it could have been a quarter to!” I remember him and smile.
Thanks for that and the memories big man.
Renton Laidlaw (Chairman 1995-98; President 2004-2015; Secretary 1978-1995;)
Colm Smith will be badly missed. He loved his job covering golf but enjoyed playing it much more. He may not have played off scratch but he was a single figure man at the bar where he enjoyed a pint or two with the lads and always drank responsibly. He was fun to be with. He was always the same. You could depend on him.
Colm’s love of life was infectious and we who knew and worked with him all benefitted from his Irish charm. Others knew him rather better than I did but I always knew him as one of the good guys.
I am happy our paths crossed from time to time in a work capacity as well as on social occasions. He was honest, reliable and above all hugely agreeable and always amiable. He was a true ambassador for the Association and for the game of golf.
Thank you, Colm.
John Hopkins (Chairman 1998-2007)
I knew of Colm before I knew him. I was aware he had covered the all-conquering 1974 Lions tour of South Africa with Terry O’Connor of the Daily Mail, Chris Lander, the Mirror, and John Reason, Daily Telegraph among others.
When Colm and I got to know one another, which would have been after the autumn of 1980 when I switched from writing about rugby to covering golf, he and I had numerous conversations about rugby in general and that tour in particular. I sensed that that tour was something of a milestone in his journalistic life and that he loved rugby as much if not more than golf, though I may be wrong.
We had conversations about many other things, too, because you just did with Colm. You weren’t always sure what the conversations were about when you tried to remember them afterwards. Indeed, you often were not sure what they were about when they were going on.
He was very keen on the Association of Golf Writers, proud of its history and its achievements for its members. If he took me to task once with the words “Hoppy, I’m very disappointed in you” because he perceived I, as chairman, had failed to do something, the right thing, for the AGW then he did so many times. He was particularly keen that the AGW badge should not be diminished in importance.
One other Colm Smith idiosyncrasy has stayed with me. When you asked him what time he had gone to bed the night before, a perfectly normal question of a very sociable man last seen with a drink in his hands in the early hours of a morning, any morning, he had a standard reply.
“Half past” he would say, looking you in the eye.
“Half past what Colm?”
Bill Elliott (Chairman 2010-13)
SO sad to learn of dear Colm’s death and perhaps even sadder to know that the last few years have been such a trial for him and for those who loved him. He was, as everyone who knows him already realises, a larger than life character, a seeker after fun and diversion, a sensitive friend and an outstanding journalist whose devotion to, and knowledge of, the game of golf and particularly Irish golf had few, if any, peers.
He and his wife Helen – an outstanding, international class sportswoman herself as well as a charming and witty companion over so many years – have both now been taken from us far too soon. The warm memories linger on however.
Colm, occasionally incomprehensible in sobriety, was totally incomprehensible to me when a few drinks had been taken but, for one reason or another, we rarely stopped laughing.
May he rest in peace, hopefully in the caring company of Helen. My condolences to all his family and many, many friends.