Golfer’s Letter to His Younger Self

Henry Oakey shared one of his favorite letters- an excerpt from a book, Extraordinary Golf by Fred Shoemaker


Dear Younger Me :

I can’t play golf anymore. I tried to swing the club the other day, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. The best I can do now is sometimes take walks on the course, but my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be so I don’t see much. I have a lot of time to sit and think now, and I often think about the game.
It was my favorite game. I played most of my adult life. Thousands of rounds, thousands of hours practicing. As I look back, I guess I had a pretty good time at it. But now that I can’t do it anymore, I wish I had done it differently.
It’s funny, but with all the time I spent playing golf, I never thought I was a real golfer. I never felt good enough to really belong out there. It doesn’t make much sense, since I scored better than average and a lot of people envied my game, but I always felt that if I was just a little better or a little more consistent, then I’d feel really good. I’d be satisfied with my game. But I never was. It was always “One of these days I’ll get it” or “One day I’ll get there” and now here I am. I can’t play anymore, and I never got there.
I met a whole lot of different people out on the course. That was one of the best things about the game. But aside from my regular partners and a few others, I don’t feel like I got to know many of those people very well. I know they didn’t really get to know me. At times they probably didn’t want to. I was pretty occupied with my own game most of the time and didn’t have much time for anyone else, especially if I wasn’t playing well.
So why am I writing you this letter anyway, just to complain? Not really. Like I said, my golfing experience wasn’t that bad. But it could have been so much better, and I see that so clearly now. I want to tell you, so you can learn from it. I don’t want you getting to my age and feeling the same regrets I’m feeling now.
I wish, I wish. Sad words, I suppose, but necessary. I wish I could have played the game with more joy, more freedom. I was always so concerned with “doing it right” that I never seemed to be able to enjoy just doing it at all. I was so hard on myself, never satisfied, always expecting more. Who was I trying to please? Certainly not myself, because I never did. If there were people whose opinions were important enough to justify all that self-criticism, I never met them.
I wish I could have been a better playing partner. I wasn’t a bad person to be with, really, but I wish I had been friendlier and gotten to know people better. I wish I could have laughed and joked more and given people more encouragement. I probably would have gotten more from them, and I would have loved that. There were a few bad apples over the years, but most of the people I played with were friendly, polite, and sincere. They really just wanted to make friends and have a good time. I wish I could have made more friends and had a better time.
I’m inside a lot now and I miss the beauty of the outdoors. For years when I was golfing I walked through some of the most beautiful places on earth, and yet I don’t feel I really saw them. Beautiful landscapes, trees, flowers, animals, the sky, and the ocean – how could I have missed so much? What was I thinking of that was so important – my grip, my back swing, my stance? Sure, I needed to think about those sometimes, but so often as to be oblivious to so much beauty? And all the green – the wonderful, deep, lush color of green! My eyes are starting to fail. I wish I had used them better so I would have more vivid memories now.
So what is it that I’m trying to say? I played the type of game that I thought I should play, to please the type of people that I thought I should please. But it didn’t work. My game was mine to play, but I gave it away. It’s a wonderful game. Please, don’t lose yours. Play a game that you want to play. Play a game that gives you joy and satisfaction and makes you a better person to your family and friends. Play with enthusiasm, play with freedom. Appreciate the beauty of nature and the people around you. Realize how lucky you are to be able to do it. All too soon your time will be up, and you won’t be able to play anymore. Play a game that enriches your life.
Best wishes . . . don’t waste a minute of golf . . . someday it will be gone!

Sam Snead, Lawson Hamilton and My Grandfather George Aide by This Year’s Chairman

From Michael Aide,  the Chairman of this year’s Ponce, which returns to the Greenbrier…

Here is some Snead literature, which includes my granddad George.

PDL - The Senior Years

Also, an obituary below about their other good friend, Lawson Hamilton, gives you an idea of what a good run this crew had. It was really something else to watch them all in action.

Longtime Coal Magnate and Philanthropist Dies
The Register-Herald (West Virginia)
November 14, 2007

Lawson Hamilton, a longtime coal operator and civic leader known throughout West Virginia for his community spirit and philanthropy, died Wednesday.

Hamilton, a Lewisburg resident, died at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville from complications of lung cancer, the State Journal reported. He was 84.

“Lawson is one of those special people in West Virginia who will be truly missed,” John Snider, vice president of external affairs for Arch Coal Inc.’s eastern region, told the Charleston Daily Mail. “He’s a valued friend from over the years, not only in the coal industry but the state of West Virginia.”

Hamilton sold much of his holdings to Arch Mineral Corp. for $57 million in 1989, ending four decades as a West Virginia coal kingpin.

“I think Lawson would epitomize the height of any West Virginia coal leader that I’ve known or been associated with,” said Ben Greene, retired from the former state Mining and Reclamation Association.

“He was such a caring and giving individual,” Greene said. “He took extremely good care of his employees. He treated everyone alike.”

Hamilton was well known as a philanthropist. He loved the arts and was a longtime riverboat captain, responsible for buying and refurbishing the P.A. Denny.

He was the co-founder of the West Virginia KIDS COUNT Fund and was active in the Presbytery of West Virginia and in his church, Old Stone Presbyterian in Lewisburg.

He helped fund a cancer unit at West Virginia University; a school, chapel and hospital wing in Berea, Ky.; the Charleston Light Opera Guild; the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Festival; and many other projects and causes.

“He was an absolute giant among men in terms of his generosity and compassion for others,” said Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat and former coal broker who knew Hamilton for more than 30 years. “He did more for his fellow human beings throughout his lifetime than I think we’ll ever truly know.”

Hamilton also actively supported the Boy Scouts, 4-H programs, Duke University Children’s Hospital, Concord University, Greenbrier East High School and other Greenbrier Valley endeavors.

“Lawson Hamilton was a great philanthropist,” said Susan Adkins, executive director of Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg. “The generosity of he and his family has had a huge impact on the success of numerous organizations and individuals throughout the Greenbrier Valley and the state. He had a great love of the arts. The Hamilton family has been integral to the restoration and the continuation of Carnegie Hall. Lawson’s generosity will live perpetually through Carnegie Hall …”

“Lawson was truly a remarkable man,” said Kathy Sawyer, executive director of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. “He was kind and generous to the entire community, and I think his love of music and the arts was infectious and was only matched by the love he had for his family and friends. He brought so much joy to so many people.”

Greene noted Hamilton often donated anonymously. That giving included about $500,000 worth of gold leaf in 1990 to adorn the state Capitol dome. He revealed his largess later that decade to join calls for much-needed repairs.

Hamilton was a longtime friend of the late golf legend Sam Snead.

“He and Sam always had something to talk and laugh about. It was always positive,” said Robert Harris, director of sports at The Greenbrier. “He is going to be missed, not only on a personal level but on a community level.”

Hamilton was also a close friend of George Aide, a noted Greenbrier Valley retailer who died in July.

“Mr. Hamilton was one of a kind,” Aide’s son, Gary, said Wednesday. “They (Hamilton and George Aide) were friends for 30 years. They played with Sam Snead and liked to bet on their golf scores.”

Aide’s daughter, Townley, is married to Hamilton’s son, Tripp, and they have a young son, Lawson Hamilton IV.

“Tripp was totally dedicated to his father,” another Aide son, Richard, said. “He never left his side for a year.”

Bill Sweet of Lewisburg, a close friend for more than 25 years, had spoken to Hamilton two days ago. Sweet regularly played cards with Hamilton and could be seen as part of a foursome on The Greenbrier’s golf courses. Through the years, Sweet traveled with Hamilton on fishing trips and several football games.

“I have a lot of wonderful memories of the many good times I had with Lawson,” Sweet said late Wednesday. “I remember the many ramp dinners, fishing trips, ball games, golf outings, birthdays and bridge games we had together. He has been a true friend and will be missed greatly.”

Hamilton also proved a generous political donor, usually for Republican candidates and causes. He contributed more than $105,000 to federal and state campaigns in the last decade, including $25,000 for the inauguration of then-Gov. Cecil Underwood in 1997.

“He was larger than life in his generosity, kindheartedness, business success and in his general love of life,” Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. “Words cannot express how lonely West Virginia will be without Lawson Hamilton.”

Hamilton was a graduate of Charleston High School and attended Morris Harvey College for two years before serving in the Army during World War II. After returning home, he got into the coal business with his father and later headed Ford Coal Co.

During his career, he was named West Virginia Coal Man of the Year. He was inducted into the West Virginia Coal Hall of Fame, named recipient of the Spirit of the Valley Award and named outstanding West Virginia Philanthropist of the Year, among many other awards.


– Michael Aide “New Diesel”


Remaining Teams Choose Captains and Team Names

Chairman Michael Aide today released the remaining Captains and the team names for the 11th Annual Ponce De Leon Invitational, beginning May 29th at the Greenbrier….42 days and counting!

Snead & Co.

Closing Time

West 44

Collars Up

A Jeremy Bird A Scott Winn A Brooks Brown A Muscoe Garnett
B Neil Thomson * B Michael Palmore B Jamie Rankin B John Klim *
C Michael Aide C Wes Battle C Henry Oakey C Clark Coulborn
D Kirk Bedell D Bill Wainscott * D Clay Thomson * D Dick Massie

* Denotes Captains

Chairman Emeritus’ Fearless Masters Predictions

Here is a little stream of consciousness about who I like at this year’s Masters.  Please see another blog if you want Tiger-Rory-Phil “analysis” – no doubt they will be contending late Sunday.  But here are my under the radar guys who may tangle with the Big 3:

I.  Top Talent, but Perhaps Overlooked:

Luke Donald.  Superb wedge game.  Meticulous player.  In prime of his career.  Don’t necessarily need to be a bomber to win it,  See, Trevor Immelman; Zach Johnson; Mikey Weir.  Plus, if we don’t get rain this week, the dryer turf may allow more run-out for shorter hitters, and equalize distance somewhat.  I see this artiste slipping on a 38 Regular.

Sergio Garcia.  Best iron player in the world.  Look for a few good eagle looks at #13 and #15 when it matters.  If the Spaniard can find it with the putter, we may see an emotional Butler Cabin Ceremony, paying homage to the late great Severiano Ballesteros.

II.  Rookie Young Guns Who Simply Aren’t Afraid:

Russell Henley.  Macon, GA-born; UGA-bred – must be a true dream for him.  If the current Charleston, SC resident can post a nice Thursday score, look for him to be in the mix through the weekend a la Sneds from a few years ago.  This guy really kept the pedal down when it mattered at the Sony in Hawaii, and we are due for our first Masters Rookie winner since Fuzzy.

Branden Grace.  I am guessing this South African phenom  is lodging somewhere off Berckmans with King Louis, Ernie, Trevor, and Charl and soaking in their Master’s success and knowledge.  This globetrotting dude seems to post more 63s than most guys.  Birdies by day, Cabernets by night.  The South Africans have a great formula and young Grace may follow his fellow countrymen’s footsteps and continue to make Gary Player proud.

III.       The Wichita State pick

Bo Van Pelt.  Ten top 10s last year.  Steady Eddie.  This perennial Ryder/President Captain’s pick snub will be “playing angry”, much like the Wichita State Shockers this past month.  Van Pelt closed with a 64 last year and would be a smart pick – especially in pools where top 10s pay out.


Henry Palmore’s Kindergarten Project

Palmore project

My little boy, Henry, is in Kindergarten.  They were recently studying Europe (I didn’t know what Europe was until I was 17 much less Kindergarten) and the class had to do a project.  Henry (in his little mind) thought that if they needed to do a project on Europe that it only made sense that the class choose St. Andrews as their point of study.  So, he convinced his class of that thought.  They built a replica of the Old Course.  His teacher gave it to us yesterday in our teacher/parent conference.  UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Needless to say but I thought this was pretty cool,

Michael Palmore

Toaster! Toaster! Toaster!


Toaster Will Captain Winn, Palmore and Battle In Ponce XI.

Team #2 is now Closing Time.

Who’s next?


Advice For the Chairman….


The best Chairmans of the Ponce continue the great traditions of past tournaments and make the event special. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but the success of your tournament depends on the details. Nobody is more important than the Tournament Director – make sure that he understands what type of service we expect and give him examples of Pros that have taken this to the next level.

  1. Reach out and make personal contact with the host course/resort’s Golf Pros / Tournament Directors months in advance.  Establish a relationship and send him past tournament guides and formats so that he understands our traditions.  That Pro will then be more inclined to assist us on the front end with customized scorecards; live scoring; group photo arrangements and the like.  He will be more invested in our event – invite him to the Opening Ceremonies and/or grab coffee with him prior to a round.  You may even get a crucial swing tip after establishing the bond.   The Pro is a valuable resource and also a guy you want in your corner!
  2. Being a Chairman means striking that balance of diplomacy and dictatorship.  You and the Emeritus need to be firm with the group in everything from format to team composition; to dinner itineraries; to tee times.  16 guys prefer direction and being told where to be more than you would think.  However, there are occasions where feeling the pulse of the group of 16 is important – i.e. gauging their preference on allowing RangeFinders in competitive rounds.  If there is an overwhelming sentiment one way or the other, than perhaps you adopt the players’ opinion as rule prior to tournament play.  However, if the feelings are split on an issue that you open up to the floor, then you must have the conviction to stand by a hard and fast rule. You will never keep all 16 players perfectly happy – whether you enact a rule or decide against it – but you must stand firm.
  3. Just as it is important to make the host Pro and/or keynote speakers etc feel “invested” in the Ponce, one of my strongest beliefs is that each player enjoys “ownership” over the tournament.  A lot of that is manifested in the rotating Chairman system.  A good Chairman will always welcome new ideas from the group on the fly, just as a good Chairman will feel empowered to bring his own “wrinkles” to each annual event.  Ideally, these tweaks – while still carrying forth the traditions – reflect that Chairman’s personality so that he can add his own legacy to the Ponce.
  4. Tournament Scoreboards – requires good coordination with the Tournament Director.
  5. Make sure they are posted somewhere central for post tourney cocktails where everyone can view and get the chatter going. Have them posted at the Champions Dinner.
  6. Set-up a keg or a barrel of beer at the 18th hole and let people know they should stick around and watch all the groups come through for one, two or all of the days. If you build it, they will come.  Create a real “finishing hole.”
  7. Live scoring during singles – a cart and a motivated pro!
  8. Tournament Players Guide – This takes time, but is a huge value add for everyone tournament week.
  9. Be creative with the Champions Dinner. Don’t just make a reservation at a restaurant, but plan an event. Done well – this is the culmination of the weekend – it is raucous, tasty and fun. Set a budget for the menu that you and Neil think is appropriate for the losing team to have to afford. It doesn’t need to have caviar and $1000 champagne, (If somebody wants that – that’s fine – they just have to pay for it individually) but people should drink as much table wine as they want, have a steak dinner and the winning team should pop some bubble to drink from the cup. The amount should be set at the opening ceremony so there’s no bad blood. Expectations are key. There is no reason this should cause any bad blood at the Champions Dinner.
  10. The little touches that you think of will differentiate your tournament. For example, Johnny Mac brought us to Sea Island, but Palmore brought Golf Digest, made the Tournament Players Guide and had Live Scoring the next year, which made his tournament, at the same venue, the very next year, unique.
  11. Put some thought and effort into the gear that you buy. There is nothing people like more than good Ponce gear and nothing they despise more than crappy gear they’ll never wear again. Although a good shirt is the norm, think outside the box and look at stuff we’ve never or rarely done like a sweater, golf towel, Patagonia vest or fleece, hats, visors, gym bags, etc. Although it is nice to commemorate the year and venue you are hosting, talk to Neil about how to do it subtley so you can and want to wear this stuff again. Good gear takes lead-time so start 6 months in advance.
  12. Pick a charity that is one that either ties into to the venue or the game of golf at-large, an important current event or international need or your personal philanthropic interests. I recommend that you set $100 as a minimum contribution and collect from everyone at the site and make a lump sum donation from the PDL. You will want to announce the charity at the opening ceremony. It was embarrassing when the Chairman one year “forgot.”

Being Chairman of the Ponce should be fun. We already have a great format – just be yourself, be creative and put some energy and effort into it and it will be memorable and incredible

Teams for the 11th Annual PDL Invitational Announced

March 18, 2013


We are thrilled to announce the teams for the 11th Annual PDL Invitational. These next two and a half months will be extremely important to develop the team chemistry needed to bring home the Fountain Of Youth cup. Please select a team captain and team name by the end of March. The format will soon follow.

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
A Jeremy Bird A Scott Winn A Brooks Brown A Muscoe Garnett
B Neil Thomson B Michael Palmore B Jamie Rankin B John Klim
C Michael Aide C Wes Battle C Henry Oakey C Clark Coulborn
D Kirk Bedell D Bill Wainscott D Clay Thomson D Dick Massie


Team 1 –

Jeremy Bird brings his leading 7-2 overall Ponce singles record to this well-rounded team. Bird is a 4X winner, a landslide MVP in 2004 and has never finished worse than 2nd. He has all the shots and is the most consistent golfer year in and year out. As evidenced by his incredible Sunday Singles record, he’s next to impossible to beat.

Could Chairman Michael Aide get the monkey off his back and win his first singles match play event? He’s a dreadful 0-6 on Sunday. New Dies or Old Dies? TBD. Glimpses of greatness were witnessed in Scotland. He has the talent to shoot in the mid 70’s. Stay tuned…this could be the year.

Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Ponce, Neil Thomson, can launch it as far as anyone. He’s a gamer and has had some of his best rounds at the Ponce. Old lefty brought home the MVP in 2010 and also is a 4X winner at the Ponce (3 in a row!). He and Bird could separate from the rest of the pack in overall wins with a victory here in Ponce XI. His teammates are thrilled to have this Ponce legend help them to victory.

Everyone is really looking forward to having Kirk officially join the Ponce in a player capacity. You will recall last year he admirably stepped up in Scotland as the Silver Stick-in-Waiting, and helped facilitate the U.S.-Brit matches. Kirk’s passion for the grand game is genuine, which we all welcome him to the fold. Perhaps a Spirit Award contender as a rookie?

Team 2 –

Scott Winn leads this pack of scrappers. This is a dangerous team…they are “Battle-ready” (pun intended) having won 10 championships and 2 MVP’s among these four. Winn has the sweetest swing and rarely misses fairways. Watch for multiple birdie barrages from this Oregon Duck. We all anticipate he will remain true to form and play 5-6 practice rounds in Richmond / Charlottesville / The Homestead during the week leading up to the Ponce.

Westray Battle and Michael Palmore will consistently amaze their competitors with some of their shotmaking skills. Predictions are that Battle will be very dangerous as he’s fresh coming off his epic leadership in Ponce X Scotland. Look for Battle to have a strong year. Palmore will nip at your heels on every shot. He’s a past MVP and as feisty as they come.

Bill Wainscott “Toaster” comes back to the birthplace of his nickname, which has become legendary at home and in the UK. Early predictions are that Toaster will be on his A game on both the course and at the tables. This team’s only “handicap” is their affinity for late night debauchery. Or will this “handicap” become this team’s weapon i.e.Scott Winn’s enhancement? We just got word from the Greenbrier Pro Shop that they will not accept a return on his square / “toaster” driver, despite fact that the $699 price tag is still affixed to the shaft!

Team 3

Interesting group as newcomer Brooks Brown will showcase his 3 handicap and his anchoring abilities on the slick West Virginia greens. NDT raves about Brooks game, but rookies beware…4 days of this level of competition can humble the most talented of golfers. Brooks will prove to be a most Worthy addition to the Ponce.

Rankin and Oakey both are as competitive as anyone in the Ponce. Oakey continues to improve as evidenced by his current 12 index. I have had the pleasure of teaming up with both of these gents and appreciated their competitiveness, game and spirit. These two will be a force.

Clay is my early prediction for MVP. There isn’t a player that grinds harder than Clay. His win in Scotland on Saturday Singles was about as gutsy of a performance as I’ve seen. Clay is not afraid of multiple chest bumps along the way as well. By hole 3 of opening day, his fingers will be bandaged up from all his aggressive swings and grunts. Clay has become one of the most improved players in the Ponce and will be a key player for this team to bring home the trophy.

Team 4

Led by Muscie Garnett, an 11 year veteran who holds the best overall record at the Ponce at an impressive 19-8-2 record, this team could be the favorite. He’s streaky and can play lights out.

No one wants to draw Muscie for Singles, as he may be the most clutch player in the Ponce’s 11 year history.

Klim has dropped his handicap to 7.6 and is playing better than he’s ever played. The handicap appears shockingly low – no doubt he has grooved his game with many weekend rounds at CCV’s River Course. If his Ponce play can validate his low index, Team 4 may be hoisting the Fountain of Youth Trophy on Saturday night.

Clarf Coulborn continues to have nightmares from the weather in Scotland and mentally could be in a fragile state. But… he’s a true competitor and knows how to put it all together (part of best team in Ponce history – Black Sunday – followed by Another Black Sunday). Clark is a 3X winner at the Ponce. He’s past Chairman at the Greenbrier and is always a fun competitor to play against. He will be well rested after having gone to Hawaii twice already this year followed by a fishing trip to Costa Rica. He noted that “he’s pretty much not working this year. My boss is going to be real happy”.

As a side note, as this year’s Chairman, I will be sure not to hoodwink a team into wearing aqua and black striped golf shirts that Chairman Clarf ordered in 2011.

Dick is back and ready to bring the title back to Atlanta. Their teammates are fired up to have him back on their squad. Dick’s status as a “D” player only proves just how deep this team is. The only open question is whether he will sign the pending sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch and Igloo for this year’s tournament, given his propensity for self-serving of case after case of morning cart brews.


Michael Aide

“New” Diesel

Chairman, The Ponce de Leon Invitational 2013

16 Players to play in the 11th Annual Ponce de Leon Invitational


Neil and I are thrilled to announce that we have 16 players who have accepted the invitation to play in the 11th Annual Ponce de Leon Invitational at the Greenbrier.  We sent out 16 original invites and only 1 person (Mac) has declined (due to a scheduling conflict). Mac is a 10 year veteran of the Ponce and will be missed this year. So…. after a lengthy worldwide search of a worthy candidate and after enduring grueling interviews, we have secured our final spot for the tournament. Please welcome Brooks Brown to this year’s event. Brooks lives in Charleston and will certainly be a fine addition to the Ponce.  He is a single-digit handicap who has a love for the game.  He plays out of Yeamans Hall, and currently anchors his putter.  Married, a father of 3 young girls – Brooks hails from Memphis originally and graduated from SMU.  Please join us in welcoming Mr. Brown to Ponce XI…

Since the field is now complete, we will be sending out an email with teams and team colors soon.  Forthcoming as well will be the specific format of the tournament.  Make travel plans now to be in White Sulphur Springs by early afternoon on Wednesday, May 29,  for the practice round. Departure will be Sunday, June 2, 2013.

I will be asking for a deposit from you all in early April. The deposit is $445 per man.

We are really excited for this year’s Ponce as we come off an incredible trip in Scotland. The facilities are going to be perfect and it will surely be a phenomenal venue to prepare for those Redcoats in 2014!


Anchoring is not a stroke

Anchoring is not a stroke. It is a crutch, regardless whether stats show it…we are at point now where junior players are being taught anchor at outset – and that is fundamentally wrong.

Here is my solution:

USGA and R&A carries forward with anchoring ban, effective 2016.

However, one major concession…allow current (2016) PGA Tour and Champions Tour pros to use anchoring for remainder of professional playing career (be grandfathered in) – so this would neutralize any argument of Rule serving to take away livelihood and something that has been in use for 20-30 years (keep the Tim Clarks at bay)…only downside to this is it perhaps create stigma to those pros who continue to use it (ie those who will be on list of major winners with anchored putter; even though legal for them)… – but if anchored stroke is that important to them then perhaps it outweighs that stigma.

But the 2016 effective date allows elite amateurs and college players time to reform and make a good shot at pro tours…

Hopefully PGA Tour does not oppose – and complies with that.

And if Average Joes and Weekend Warriors etc want to use anchored equipment, then they can…so long as it is not in an event conforming with USGA Rules.

By the way, The Ponce will undoubtedly adopt whatever Rules the USGA / R&A enact.

I really don’t care about current pros / Finchem’s argument that there is no data to show competitive advantage of using anchored vs non-anchored…point is, anchored is inherently not a stroke, and juniors etc should not be taught anchoring at outset of learning the game…