Friends of the Ponce

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The following is a list (alphabetical) of non-competing individuals who have supported the Ponce – not in a financial sense – but by selflessly contributing their time, perspective, expertise, thoughts, words, and interest into making our tournament what it is:

Tom and Elizabeth Allen (2014 PDL, Sea Island)

About ten months prior to the contest, Chairman Michael Palmore began to speak to Tom Allen, a friend from Hampden-Sydney, about the upcoming tournament.  Once Tom knew that Elizabeth and he would be in Sea Island the same time as our tournament, he graciously offered his cottage to host both teams on the Thursday evening of the Ponce De Leon Matches.  We invited Tom and Elizabeth to the Opening Ceremonies at The Lodge the night before the team cookout to get to know the players.

There were five Hampden-Sydney guys in the tournament so there was a natural connection with the Allens, but what was even more fun is that Tom discovered many bonds with all members of Team USA and our friends from London.  With Southern Soul catered BBQ, key lime pie (homemade by Elizabeth, drinks, and an amazing view, both teams had an exceptional time.  It was a true highlight of the weekend.  We are grateful the Allens are true friends of the Ponce!

Brooks Beard (2011 PDL, The Greenbrier).   Brooks is an Atlanta native and old friend of many Poncers, including stalwart Dick Massie.  Brooks has spent several years selling real estate properties within the magnificent, private Greenbrier Sporting Club.  On our 2011 pilgrimage to the Greenbrier, Brooks welcomed us all on the first tee of the private Snead Course at the Greenbrier for a memorable practice round.  It was a splendid way to kick off what we expect to be many more Ponces up at the Greenbrier.  Thanks, Brooks, for the hospitality and access to the Snead!

Brian Dobak.  (2010 PDL, Sea Island).  Brian was the PGA Professional and Sea Island Golf Clubs Tournament Coordinator who was a huge asset to our tournament.  He had big shoes to fill as our point man – as he was the successor to the Great Simon Race (see below) at Sea Island.  In short, he did not disappoint.  With great attention to detail – his placing the trophy at the #1 tee prior to each day’s matches; his informative summaries; his Singles matches live-time updates; his genuine enjoyment in tracking our tournament – it all added up to making the 2010 PDL one of the best ever.  This was our 3rd trip to Sea Island, so the players’ expectations were high, and Brian exceeded them routinely.  The last we checked, Brian and his wife have moved back closer to his roots, where he serves as the PGA Professional at the esteemed Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Josh Evenson (2012 PDL, St. Andrews).  Josh is in Development of Golf, Events, and Alumni Relations at University of St. Andrews.  An American who resides in Denver, but spends quite a bit of time at his alma mater in St. Andrews and the UK, Josh was introduced to the Ponce through Thomas Dunne of Links magazine.  Given his extensive travels around Scotland, Josh was great in assisting our “B” itinerary on the front end of the Ponce Matches.  As one small example, we would never had known about the hidden B&B gem near Cruden Bay called Kilmarnock Arms without Josh’s endorsement and guidance.  Josh graciously went on to personally co-host both the American and British teams for a legendary dinner at The St. Andrews Golf Club, where he helped arrange David Joy (“Old Tom Morris”) (see below) perform for us, overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course!

Dr. Jack Frost (2009 PDL, Palm Springs).  Dr. Frost is a retired physician and resident of Indian Wells, CA and Leland, MI.  Jack is a longtime friend of Dr. Richard Tyler (Neil Thomson’s father-in-law).  Jack is a member of the esteemed Eldorado C.C. in Indian Wells and graciously hosted all 16 Ponce players to his club for a special tour and keynote address from the club pro.  The 2009 Ponce had a cagey theme where we honored the 50th Anniversary of the 1959 Ryder Cup, which took place at Eldorado.  Our tournament rota mimicked the Bob Hope – with rounds at PGA West and La Quinta.  Our Friday night visit to Eldorado C.C. courtesy of Dr. Frost, with an opportunity to hold the actual Ryder Cup replica from ’59 made this Ponce a truly memorable one.  For the first time in Ponce history, we tweaked our format to include two teams of 8, the Sam Snead team vs. the Dai Rees team, to further honor the ’59 Ryder Cup Captains.  Jack and his wife, Mimi, were also kind enough to host a few early arriving Poncers for a wonderful dinner at Eldorado.  Bing Crosby would have been proud!

Patrick Graney (2015 PDL).  Pat is a fellow UVA graduate and fraternity brother of many Ponce players.  He is a West Virginia native and his family was gracious enough to serve as sponsoring hosts for one of the Ponce’s most memorable and scenic dinners in its history.  We traveled in shuttles for about 15 minutes from the resort  up to the mountaintop restaurant called the Summit, which is a private venue within the Greenbrier Sporting Club.  The 26 Poncers wined and dined al fresco on a beautiful summer night in the West Virginia mountains, and we are grateful to the Graneys for sponsoring our access to such an incredible spot.

Matt Ginella (2008 PDL, Sea Island – and ongoing).  Matt was the Senior Travel Editor for Golf Digest in late 2007, when true serendipity befell the Ponce.  The upcoming 2008 Ponce was to be chaired by Michael Palmore.  Palmore, a longtime Golf Digest subscriber and fan, called up the publication’s general customer service number on a bit of a lark.  He had no connections, and simply wanted to express to anyone who would take his call about our young tournament’s format, traditions, and focus.  Lo and behold, he was ultimately patched through to “Matty G”, who just happened to be setting to launch an “Ambush” / buddies trip travel series for Golf Digest.  Ginella and Palmore struck up a great conversation, but the Chairman was not given any indication whether Ginella would actually choose the 6th Annual Ponce de Leon Invitational at Sea Island as his pilot Ambush profile.  Well…he did!  Please see the video and articles on this website to see how Matty G’s surprise visit to the Trophy Room at Sea Island’s Lodge unfolded!  Matt has been so gracious to not only profile us for his first Ambush, but he has also followed our tournament through many blog posts, and direct phone calls to the Ponce leadership.  Further, he invited the Chairman Emeritus, Neil Thomson, to sit on a buddies trip panel / roundtable at Pinehurst in 2010, which he also covered for the magazine.  His interest of the Ponce has taken us to a new level!    The serendipity would not end there.  Ginella spearheaded a fantasy golf majors challenge through Golf Digest’s website in 2012: a free sweepstakes opened to anyone – where the entrant who picked the winner of a particular major won a free trip for 2 to Ireland for a dream golf trip sponsored by Carr Golf.  A week after returning from the 10th Annual Ponce in St. Andrews, Thomson entered Ginella’s Golf Digest U.S. Open challenge.  On a whim, he picked Webb Simpson and won the trip  to Ireland!  Ginella has recently left Golf Digest, and has migrated south to Orlando’s warmer climes to join Golf Channel as on-air talent on The Morning Drive and is superbly covering other travel / amateur golf features for the network.

Jamie Hamilton (2011 & 2013 & 2015 PDL, The Greenbrier).  Jamie is the head PGA Golf Professional at the Greenbrier.  After three years of royal treatment from Sea Island’s staff, we had set quite a high standard heading into 2011.  In a word, Jamie delivered.  He provided great scoreboards; he provided live-time score mobile score updates for the Singles matches; and he evoked a genuine interest in our traditions.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Jamie and the fine folks of the Greenbrier.

In 2011, just days before the event, one of our players, Brooks Brown, was hurt in a boating accident in Charleston. Jamie admirably stepped in for Brooks and his team, West 44. Jamie proved to be the perfect addition to the Ponce! The other Ponce teams gave him a run for his money as Jamie’s par on 18 (and Snead & Co’s missed 9 foot putt) proved to be the hole that won it for his team. This once came down to the wire as it almost went to the first playoff in Ponce history.

Jamie and his team’s incredible service, which included scoreboards on the course throughout the weeks ultimately made these PDLs some of the most memorable to date. We know that when we come back to the Greenbrier, Jamie and his team will always go the extra mile… and they have fun doing it.

Robert Harris (2011 and 2013 PDL Greenbrier) Robert is the Director of Golf, Sports and Recreation at the Greenbrier and has been at the Greenbrier for 23 years. Not only is Robert a friend of the Ponce, he is a longtime friend of Michael Aide’s father and grandfather.  Robert was instrumental in providing the Ponce an incredible experience at the Greenbrier. Robert is a true gentlemen and we were thankful he was able to speak to our group. Robert spent many years with Sam Snead and his knowledge of Sam’s golf career is extraordinary. He brought Sam Snead’s old persimmon woods in addition to other memorabilia to our opening ceremony and provided some incredible facts and funny stories of Sam.  We all marveled at hearing stories of Sam’s athleticism and remarkable achievements: particularly that he had a hole-in-one using every club in his bag!  We look forward to seeing Robert and his passion for the game of golf the next time we’re back at the Greenbrier.

Tony Jacklin – A hero for many of our friends from London, Mr. Jacklin had a storied international golf career.  At the age of 24, Tony Jacklin joined Sea Island Golf Club as its touring pro.  With Sea Island being the “home” of the Ponce, we felt a connection with Mr. Jacklin.  When we had the first international match in 2012, we named the MVP of the UK team after Tony Jacklin.

For a little over a year leading up to the 2014 Ponce International Matches, Chairman Michael Palmore corresponded with Mr. Jacklin.  Unfortunately, the timing of our tournament conflicted with The Open Championship and although he would be in Europe during the Ponce, Mr. Jacklin  was kind enough to send us an autographed picture.

The picture was of “The Concession.”  This was the famous 1969 Ryder Cup match between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin.  In one of the greater moments in sportsmanship, Jack gave Tony the final putt so they would halve a hard fought match.  Mr. Jacklin wished us well by saying, “If you have half as much fun as we did, you’ll be just fine.”  We proudly showcased this picture at our Opening Ceremonies joking that we would have more fun than they did, but our level of golf wouldn’t even be close.

David Joy (2012 St. Andrews).  David is a fourth generation born and bred St. Andrean.  He is Scotland’s premier golf historian, and he graced us with his presence to perform as “Old Tom Morris” during our banquet dinner at The St. Andrews Golf Club.  David is patron of the charity Keepers of the Green, which is set up to promote the traditions of the game of golf and provide powered mobility for the needy.  The Ponce chose Keepers of the Green as its 2012 charity initiative – with our donated funds allowing for both teams’ MVP’s to be lifetime members of the charitable society.  All 28 Ponce players, and other esteemed guests, were enthralled by David’s rendition of Old Tom.

Brand Morgan  (2010 PDL, Sea Island).  Brand is a longtime friend of many Ponce players, dating back to years spent together at the University of Virginia.  A Lawrenceville, Georgia native and current Atlanta resident who hosts his own legendary Triple Crown sports-themed events with friends each year, Brand is a social-host maestro.  During our 2010 PDL, he graciously welcomed all the Ponce players to his family’s incredible marsh-front estate on Sea Island for an old-fashioned Lowcountry Seafood Boil.  It was Crosby’s Clambake, but with a Southern twist.  The event lasted well into the midsummer’s night, replete with poker, cigars, and a well-stocked bar.  Thanks, Brand!

Reg Murphy (2008 PDL, Sea Island).  Mr. Murphy is a past President of the United States Golf Association and current Sea Island resident.  He graciously served as our keynote speaker for the Opening Ceremonies in the Lodge’s Trophy Room in 2008.  He was a past publisher at the Baltimore Sun and past editor at the Atlanta Journal & Constitution.  While working at the law firm of King & Spalding in Atlanta, Neil Thomson had read Murphy’s biography of former Georgia Senator Griffin Bell, entitled Uncommon Sense.  Senator Bell, a K&S lawyer, had signed Thomson’s copy of that book back in 1998.  Coming full circle at the Ponce in 2008, Thomson had the author himself, Reg Murphy, also sign the book!  Mr. Murphy provided a warm Southern welcome to the Ponce in his keynote address, and we were so grateful for his time.

Mark Nesbitt (2012 PDL, St. Andrews).  Mark is a part-time resident in the town of St. Andrews, Scotland – also a member of The St. Andrews Golf Club.  He also resides in Leland, Michigan, where he serves on the Board of Directors of the the Leland County Club.  An avid golfer, Mark first expressed interest in the Ponce back in 2010, where Neil Thomson inundated him with old war stories one summer evening up on the shores of Lake Leelanau in Michigan.  Mark was gracious enough to open his beautifully restored St. Andrews residence on College Street to five of the American Ponce players, and connect the other 9 Americans to a charming nearby B&B, the Deveron House.  Mark was also so kind as to co-host our access and privileges to The St. Andrews Golf Club, where we held one of our fine and memorable banquets along the Scores – a mere pitching wedge distance from the 18th green of the Old Course.

Gale Peterson (2010 PDL, Sea Island).  Gale is a Top 100 golf instructor based out of Sea Island, Georgia.  She graciously accepted our invitation to serve as the keynote speaker at our 2010 Ponce’s Opening Ceremonies.  Gale provided a good history of the Harry Colt & Charles Alison- designed original 1929 Seaside course, and patiently answered many Poncers questions who were looking for that magical swing tip.  Gale’s instruction on getting out of the massive bunkering on Seaside was especially enlightening – and was key  – as this was the first Ponce in history where all 4 competitive rounds were to be played on the same course (the challenging Seaside track).

Marion and Graham Proctor (2012 PDL, St. Andrews).  Marion and Graham Proctor are the fine proprietors of the Deveron House, smack dab in the heart of St. Andrews.  9 of the 14 American golfers bunked here during the Matches, and we commandeered their front parlor as the American Team Room.  We would recommend this B&B to anyone visiting St. Andrews; centrally located, with a delightful and personal breakfast. The Proctors were so friendly, and big Graham has a true love for the game of golf.

Simon Race (2007, 2008, 2012 PDL, Sea Island and St. Andrews).  Simon is the former PGA professional at Sea Island, and former assistant pro at Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland, and is the current Head Professional at Meltham Golf Club in England.  How do we describe Simon?  He is magnificent.  A true pro’s pro.  He raised the service bar of the Ponce single-handedly.  He is the only non-competitor to have won a Ponce Spirit Award (2008).  As far as we are concerned, he invented the mobile real-time scoring for Sunday Singles.  We would be hard pressed to find a better tournament coordinator and logistics man than Simon.  Plus, he seems to truly love our event – such a good man.  When we decided to take the Ponce international to St. Andrews (and after he had departed Sea Island), Simon traveled over from England to pitch a hand with tournament coordination at his former club, Carnoustie.  He arranged to book our Opening Ceremonies in the Ben Hogan Room at Carnoustie, with photo opportunities with the Club’s replica of the Claret Jug.  Superb!  Needless to say, we look forward to continuing our relationship with Simon.

Scott Reid (2014 PDL, Sea Island) is the Tournament Chairman of the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic, held annually on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club.  Along with John McKenzie (Director of Sales of the tournament), Scott attended the Opening Ceremonies at the 2014 Ponce de Leon Matches (USA vs. Great Britain at Sea Island).  We selected the Davis Love Foundation as our annual Ponce charity – and this is the first organization to have been selected twice by our group (2010 as well).  The Davis Love Foundation is the host organization for the McGladrey Classic, and the proceeds from the Foundation serve to benefit the local Boys & Girls Club, and the local Special Olympics chapter in the Brunswick-Golden Isles communities.  We were proud to present Scott Reid and the fine folks at McGladrey with our modest, yet heartfelt, contribution.

Davis Sezna (2009 PDL, Palm Springs).  Davis was the President and head man at La Quinta Resort & Club, and his hospitality and interest in our tournament is unparalleled.  His relationship with the Ponce began in 2009 he and his wife, Barb, blitzed into our Opening Ceremonies at the Library at La Quinta.  After 20 minutes of legendary golf stories and humor (he had just gotten chewed out from an unwitting staffer for parking illegally to come meet us at our event!), we all felt like we had known Davis for much longer.  He endorsed our competition, traditions, and format – and he was a nightly friend to us all at Ernie’s Bar & Grill at PGA West, where he always demanded to buy the first round.  We were so honored to designate our annual charity by establishing a modest 9/11 memorial fund in tribute to his son Deeg who lost his life at the World Trade Center.  Even though none of the Ponce guys had the honor of meeting Deeg, we all felt connected to him.  By all accounts, he was a gentleman and a golfer, and that is what we all strive to be.  Davis has been so kind in following up with the Ponce leadership since 2009, expressing a genuine interest in our young tournament.  Davis is the current CEO of the Cliffs Communities in the Carolina mountains.

Jim Stahl (2014 PDL, Sea Island) Jim  is the founder of the Jones Cup, which is one of the top amateur golf tournaments in the United States – held annually at Ocean Forest Golf Club on Sea Island.  He was gracious enough to serve as our keynote speaker at the 2014 Ponce de Leon Matches (USA vs. Great Britain at Sea Island).    Neil Thomson was introduced to Mr. Stahl through his father-in-law, Dr. Richard Tyler, who –as it turns out – grew up on the same street in Cincinnati where Mr. and Mrs. Stahl now reside.    Mr. Stahl is the 1995 U.S. Senior Amateur Champion and all 20 Ponce golfers were honored to have met him out on the Lodge lawn during the Opening Ceremonies.  He regaled us with stories of childhood junior golf matches versus Jack Nicklaus, and also unveiled the exciting news that the champion of the 2015 Jones Cup would receive a special invitation to play in the 2015 McGladrey Classic field.  The British players were especially excited to learn of Mr. Stahl’s unique and respected position as the only American member at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s.


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