2008 – Sea Island – The Virginia Gentlemen Raise Cup

Tournament Summary

Virginia Gentlemen Hold On For Victory!
Cole Clarkson (MVP), Jamie Rankin (Captain), Michael Palmore and Neil Thomson

Cole Clarkson (MVP)
Jamie Rankin (Captain)
Simon Race – Spirit Award Winner

January 17-21, 2008
Sea Island, Georgia (Plantation, Retreat and Seaside)
Michael Palmore – Chairman

At approximately 5:02pm with the sun setting on a wintery Sunday afternoon MichaelPalmore rolled his 20 foot putt inches from the hole to secure a half point that took the Virginia Gentlemen to 10 points and ultimately give them victory by that same margin! The outcome of the tournament had seemed to be heading their way for most of the afternoon but a late change in some key matches meant the final scoreboard separated first and last by only one and a half points. According to the official historians this meant it was the closest Ponce De Leon in history.

Building on what John McAllister had created in bringing the Ponce to Sea Island, Chairman Palmore simply took the Ponce to the next level. The Opening Ceremony had it all. Palmore started a tradition of an enhanced Tournament Summary Program, which is included below: “Bagpipes and Cocktails” was the theme this year. In addition, former USGA Chairman Reg Murphy kicked off this year’s Opening ceremony, beginning a tradition of speakers at the Invitational that still stands. In addition, when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Matt Ginella, the Travel Editor of Golf Digest, selected the Ponce De Leon Invitational as the first buddies golf trip to be “ambushed” and featured in the magazine.

Palmore also introduced live scoring to the tournament for Sunday Singles, which he could not have pulled off without Tournament Director and Spirit Award Winner Simon Race. The 2008 Ponce was special and Chairman Palmore cemented a tradition  leaving their legacy on the tournament for many years to come.

Golf Digest’s Inaugural Ambush

“The Ponce” was a story about 16 guys at Sea Island Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga. The Ponce set quite a precedent. I’ve always said that The Ponce, at a resort like Sea Island and with the competitive format put together by Neil Thomson and his friends, is the type of trip I would like to plan one day for all of my brothers and friends. I do buddies trips, just not at Ponce level. And you can’t beat the Lodge at Sea Island or the Seaside Course as a venue.” – Matt Ginella, Travel Editor, Golf Digest (2008)

Former USGA Chairman Reg Murphy kicked off this year’s Opening Ceremony at the Lodge at Sea Island.

Here is Neil Thomson’s account of how it happened:

I contacted Mr. Reg Murphy through January 2008 written correspondence, seeking his participation in our Opening Ceremonies for Thursday night.  I knew he was a resident of Sea Island and a former President of the United States Golf Ass’n.  He agreed to join us and make some brief remarks about Sea Island; fighting through the weather as the game was first intended; some tips from a golf psychologist; and other witty anecdotes.
I first learned of Mr. Murphy after reading his book, a biography about former Georgia Senator Griffin Bell called Uncommon Sense.  Senator Bell gave a signed copy of the book to all attorneys and clerks who worked at King & Spalding around 1999 timeframe (I was a clerk there prior to law school).  In a neat revelation where things came full circle, I had Mr. Murphy also sign that same book after he made his remarks last Thursday.
The following is a brief bio of Mr. Murphy, with career distinctions and accomplishments: Reg Murphy is Vice Chairman of the National Geographic Society based in Washington, D.C. He was President and CEO of the Society from 1995 to 1998. Prior to National Geographic, he was the publisher and CEO of the Baltimore Sun and a member of the Times Mirror Newspaper Management Committee. Mr. Murphy has also been the Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, and Editor and Publisher of the San Francisco Examiner. He is a past President of the United States Golf Association. Mr. Murphy is on the Board of Directors of The Omnicom Group, MSD&T Funds and SIRSI. He is also President of Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore, Maryland and a Trustee of Mercer and Brenau Universities.
Mr. Murphy brought some further legitimacy to our young tournament.  He is a true gentleman to answer our call and provide some insightful remarks on short notice.  I like to keep a historical, more serious perspective as at least part of the agenda for Thursday night, and this is a step up and continuation from my 2007 reading from excerpts of Bobby Jones’ autobiography, Down the Fairway – Neil Thomson, Chairman Emeritus, Founder of the Ponce De Leon Invitational

2008 Ponce De Leon Invitational Results (PDF)

The Pursuit of the Ponce – Golf Digest’s First Ambush (PDF)

2008 Tournament Players Guide (PDF)

2008 Invitation Letter (PDF)



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