Our Cups Are Full: Golf and Bourbon

Aiken Golf Club founded 1912, John Englis design.

I’m just sitting here drinking my coffee and introspecting about this past weekend; all that I can say is that my cup is full.  I had close friends & family around me, I had Gamecock fans & athletes around me, sunshine & rain, good & bad golfers….and whiskey.  We saw the highest scoring team leave with $200 worth of prizes, the best team name with 4 donated “Bourbon” hats from Chicken Cock Whiskey, and the lowest scoring team take home 4 incredible local bottles from High Wire in Charleston with their trophies.  The BBQ lunch was on point with the timing, but the flavor of my sandwich (I got the original sauce) was as good as I can remember.  I want to thank Brian and Tammy from Big B’s BBQ for coming through and providing us with such quality while on the course.  I would say that my favorite part of the day was hearing the cheers from a team whose teammate just chipped in or dropped a bomb for Eagle.  I know I heard at least 4 and screamed myself a couple times with great shots from my team.  Being born and raised in Aiken, or 20 miles from the Augusta National, I’ve had the privilege of hearing those loud cheers echo off ages old Pine trees during tournament play at the Masters.  There were glimpses of those echoes off our Pines on Saturday, and the former athlete in me loved hearing the pure enjoyment from the team that owned those echoes.

Highest Score took home a dozen balls each, Team “Slappy Pappy’s” won the Chicken Cock hats, Paul and Cameron Loop holding the “Sweet Carolina” barrel

My morning started at 6 AM with getting all the beer (500+) to the course and iced down.  The feedback after buying local blonde and IPA’s last year was that they were too heavy for a hot day on the course, so I went with Coors Light, Yuengling, Michelob Ultra, and Modelo Especial this year.  They were all gone by 1, so I’d say that was a good switch.  Once, I got the tent set up and all the boxes of glasses, hats, golf balls, etc. to the clubhouse, it was every bit of 8:45 and players were starting to arrive.  I could not have done this without the help of my brother Ryan, and two Gamecock ladies that I’m sure you all know from social media, Faith Anne Floyd and Kristen aka “Mrs.” Hopkins.  Not only did they all bring a good attitude that we all need in the morning, but they came willing to do what was necessary for each of you to have a seamless day on the course.  Can’t thank them enough.  Once people found out they were also pouring Early Times, they got REALLY popular.  I think we went through 2 liters by 10 AM.

Faith Anne and Kristen Hopkins, Announcements, Andy Brown, Marc Joehnk, Paul & Ryan Miles

One of the craziest things that happened Saturday was with my new friend Barrett Leviner.  I met Barrett at our most recent Bourbon Bash at CB18 Bar and Grill in Columbia.  His wife works for Coca-Cola, and they sponsored the non-alcoholic drinks on Saturday.  While helping deliver beer, water, Powerade, and joy to our players, Barrett got runover and I still don’t understand how.  He was on the back of a workman golfcart (basically a golf cart truck with a bed) and Faith Anne stops just before a speed bump on the cart path because of a steep hill she was about to climb.  When she gassed it, apparently ole girl hit the floor with the pedal and Barrett went flying.  So how did he get runover if he went off the back?  Faith Anne hit the brakes not knowing he had already fallen off, and then tried to gas it out of the way immediately.  It stalled.  The cart had a delay and didn’t respond to the gas and it rolled over Barrett to add insult to injury.  Tore up his shorts, shirt, and elbow.  Not only am I thankful that he is ok and we can all laugh about it, but I’m thankful for his humor about the whole incident.  Y’all, this guy is a trip.  If you don’t follow him, go do it (@bleviner).  So, if the tournament next year is $450 per person, thank Barrett, because I had to take out an insurance policy in case someone not as nice as him gets runover next time.

The Calm Before the Storm and the Aftermath.

I personally wanted to start on hole 1 this year; that way I could be finished as close to the club as possible so that I can begin preparing for the awards ceremony.  This meant that 4 Gamecock football players got to stand and watch me hit my first shot of the day as they teed off the same hole after us.  I don’t get nervous, and didn’t, but I do know that I’m not a good golfer (roughly a 20 handicap).  I tee’d it up, put my Red Solo Cup over the ball, and absolutely striped it down the center.  Little did they know as they were saying “Nice Ball”, that it would be my best drive of the day.  Might as well get it out of the way.  With that drive, we tapped in for Eagle to start the round.  Another favorite part of the day was watching those guys play the hole we just finished and talking shit to them whenever we could.  It was reciprocated and welcomed.  No point in competing like gentlemen when we have bourbon prizes on the line!  Those guys can play too.  I really appreciate Alex Herrera, Davis Beville, Kai Kroeger, Hunter Rogers, Alex Huntley, and Jesse Sanders for coming to compete and enjoy the day with the Gamecock Bourbon Society.  I’ll be pulling extra hard for those guys this upcoming season.

Left to Right: Jeremy Smith of the Garnet Trust in the background, Kai Kroeger, Jesse Sanders, Alex Herrera, and Hunter Rogers. Behind Alex is Jim Cackalackman stretching like an old man.

Aiken Golf Club was in great shape!  I challenge someone to find me a better course in the entire state of South Carolina that offers the value A.G.C. does.  For $50, and without paying a membership/initiation fee, you can play a 115-year-old course and step back in time.  Having played a course not nearly as desirable for $350, I’m team Aiken Golf Club for life.  I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again, I’m grateful that they closed the course for us on a Saturday.  No other course will even give me a Friday.  It’s either Tuesday or Thursday…so ask yourself, could you have played Thursday morning?  No.  Until I find another course that will keep the per player fee under $150 for the day and on a Saturday, Aiken Golf Club will be the home for our tournament.  We had 108 players year one on June 10, and 84 players this year on June 29…both incredible turnouts.  Next year, I’ll be looking at late May or early June to cool it off a touch.

This brings me to the Garnet Trust and Jeremy Smith’s team.  It’s so nice to see him bring his wife Monica, and his son Ethan.  I can’t thank them enough for their never-ending support and in bringing the Sniper Golf balls, the athletes, some raffle prizes, and apparently tight shots to our events.  Jeremy Smith was our “Closest to the Pin” winner this year on hole #16.  I didn’t measure it, but I would say it was within 5 feet of the pin.  Having to leave early to pack for a family vacation, I didn’t have the pleasure of handing him his winnings, but I look forward to it the next time I see him.  Hell of a shot my friend and thank you!  There were some ringers out there, so know that you earned this one.

1st and 2nd Playoff Hole

Once the round was over and the final scorecard was turned in, we had a dilemma we didn’t see last year.  We had a tie!  Aiken Golf Club finishes with a Par 3, unusual for most courses.  That provided some extra entertainment for everyone as both teams had to select 2 players to play in a play off on the 18th.  All of the players out of the tournament lined the 18th green like days of old when Patrons could get really close without ropes.  They both tee’d up and finished with par, so they decided to cut it to 1 player each.  After they both made par again, they together decided to flip a coin as it was hot, humid, and getting late.  We were all drained.  Team “Seller’s Sandbaggers” ended up winning the coin toss and thus the tournament.  Tip of the hat to team “Eagles Not So Rare” for their incredible round and sportsmanship.  Zach Owens, thank you for coming, for your friendship, and your support of GBS.  I hate I didn’t get to spend more time with you Saturday, but hope you know that you are one of the best parts of this Society.  It pleased me to no end that you won the Jimmy Russell signed Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon.

Sometimes when you are running the show, things can slip your mind that you wished didn’t.  I’ve got two things I wanted to announce to everyone Saturday and failed to do so:

1.      Big Cock Whiskey was a sponsor of our event, and this is the first time I am publicly saying that it’s a project that I am a part owner of.  Because of that relationship, I didn’t want it to seem forced or over spoken about.  However, I did want you to know how good it’s going to be; the decanter on the bourbon tasting table, which we poured blind with no labels or distinction, was our whiskey.  We are going to be on the shelves this fall in South Carolina, so keep an eye out for it!  It’s as smooth as silk neat and makes for a great old fashioned.  It’s a 95% Wheat 5% Barley mash bill.  The feedback that we got was overwhelmingly positive, and that pleased all 3 of us who are heading the project.  Thank you to Jeff and Macon for coming from Indiana and North Carolina to sponsor and participate in our tournament.  It was great hosting you guys.

Former Gamecock OL John Strickland and current Gamecock team captain, Alex “Boogie” Huntley

2.      A big thank you to the former Letterman who came to play on their own dime.  My friends John Strickland and his wife Krissy came to enjoy the day with friends and likeminded people, and they have always been a huge supporter of Gamecock Bourbon.  Strick is a former OL at USC and was a part of our 2nd Outback Bowl win under Lou Holtz.  It was great to see y’all and thank you for coming!  The other Letterman I knew about and failed to acknowledge was Jimmy Hamilton.  Jimmy lettered in 1970, 71, and 72 and was MVP of our Golf Team in ‘71 and ‘72.  His 1971 Gamecock team finished 2nd to Wake Forest while in our last season in the ACC.  They were invited to the NCAA tournament, but A.D. Paul Dietzel declined the invite, and South Carolina left the ACC and went independent shortly after that.  I hate that they didn’t get the opportunity that they earned to represent USC on the biggest stage.  Thank you for coming out, Jimmy!

Before, during, and after the awards ceremony, I saw people talking and getting to know former strangers, or people finally meeting someone they’ve known on social media for years.  I saw people talking about the whiskey poured and sharing stories of bottles that are similar that others may not have heard of.  I saw people enjoying quality cigars and bragging about their one good shot of the day.  That’s what this community is all about, and I hope you know that is my goal.  To have an outlet for people to come together and enjoy their hobbies and forget about life for a while.  To learn from and teach one another about cigars, golf courses, whiskies, or anything under the sun that lacks drama.  All of these things happened this weekend, and when you hit your goal, you’re satisfied.  Consider me Satisfied.

Complimentary Cigars, some of the whiskey spread (24+ bottles)

To close the night, 21 of our golfers convened at Prime Steakhouse after showers and an hour’s rest.  In my email, I told all our golfers to come to Prime with us and have a takeover, and with 20% of the field coming, I’d say that was also accomplished.  I appreciate the toast and words from my brother Ryan as well as Brian Grice.  It’s a ton of work to put this on, but the reward is so sweet.  It warms my heart to know that people are already talking about the next tournament, and if they back their words up, we already have about 10 teams coming regardless of date.  That is so cool.  That’s half of this year’s field.

I know this sounded like a thank you speech rather than a write up about the day, but it truly is because there are so many people to thank.  Dick Dyer Mercedes, who sponsored our closest to the pin award, is owed many thanks for helping me make this day top notch.  A big thanks to Joni and Roy Chaney for bringing their beautiful cars, and to Hunt Dyer for his continued support of GBS.  Coca-Cola, Big Cock Whiskey, Buzzards Roost, High Wire, and countless others provided me with the tools to make this all happen and I’m grateful for their support.  To the Non-Gamecock players and the ones who drove hours to play, I hope you had a great day, found value in the tournament, and want to come back next year…thank you.  Andy and Holli Brown are two of my best friends, and I couldn’t have stayed as sane as I did without y’all’s support Saturday.  Thank you for helping select the juice and for donating the Maker’s Mark “Sweet Carolina” bottle for our raffle.  You made someone’s day with that.  Steven Sielicki…the trophies were absolutely beautiful and I would have been proud to take it home myself had I earned it.  Thank you for your continued support and for your beautiful tasting boards & trophies.  Gamecock Dave, GamecockEats, and all the other internet personalities that came…I appreciate y’all as well.  You could have done anything with your Saturday, and yet you came to support the Gamecock Bourbon Society.  You have my blessing to reach out to me when you need my support.

Championship trophy presentation, Scoreboard, Rattler raffle winner

I can’t close without thanking my wife and kids for putting up with me while putting this tournament together.  Aside from time spent away because of work, the time it takes to get this together is immense and takes patience from loved ones.  I really appreciate you affording me the time to do something that I love: bring Gamecocks together for a fun and engaging experience. 

If you attended the tournament and have feedback, please send it to PaulMiles@GamecockBourbon.com.  It doesn’t matter how fun something is, there are ways to improve in all areas and I welcome the feedback.  From value/price of the tournament to selection of beer or whiskey…let me hear it.

I hope to see all of you back next year, and thanks for filling my cup. 

Cheers….Forever To Whiskee!!

Paul Miles

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