Welcome to GHIN and Tonic: Vol. 9. It’s felt like a sprint for team NLU since late April, but this week, I finally feel a collective exhale from the team, so I’ll keep it brief this week. I’d prefer we all get off the internet and enjoy the summer holiday!


In May, I qualified for the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Public Links Championship with a very patient 73 on a rainy day. I finished tied for third with the top seven qualifying for the championship. I was thrilled. The MGA hosts the oldest “Pub Links” tournament in the United States. It’s open to any MGA member with an eight handicap or better and does not host their handicap at a private club. The 2024 championship field included 60 golfers and was a 36-hole one-day event at Spook Rock Golf Course, a well-maintained parkland course across the New Jersey border in Suffern, New York. I finished solo 43rd, going 79-82.

My golf could have been much better, but I loved every minute of the competition. Here are a few takeaways after a couple of weeks of reflection:

  • I was impressed with my fellow competitors, Harrol and Joe. Harrol was in his mid-sixties, and when I asked him when he started playing golf, he gave me a definite answer: October 4th, 2004. He’s only played golf for 20 years and shot a tidy one under 71 in the first round. Joe was a retired NYPD officer now living on Long Island. After college football, he played eight years as a receiver on the NYPD football team. He picked up golf after age forty as well. Both of these men were better golfers than me despite homegrown swings, no “home club,” and aging bodies, which, at first, I found discouraging. But the more I think about it, I now find it invigorating. It’s stark evidence that my best golf could and should be ahead of me. As I turn 35 next month, there are not many other physical activities where I can look to the future for better days.
  • Harrol specifically was the embodiment of how boring good golf can look, and I’d sum it up in two words: high floor. He had a consistent ball flight (a low, barreling draw), played away from trouble, and gave himself a ton of birdie and par putts. There was a rhythm to his game that was not present in my game, and it was inspiring to watch. Especially late in our 2nd round, there is such a value to hitting the middle or fat part of the green and avoiding the 8-10 foot par putts that result from unfocused targets and short-sided misses. These putts wore me down mentally, which led to a few bad decisions on the next tee trying to “catch up.”
  • My biggest takeaway from the Pub Links was how much room I have to improve with a better competitive strategy alone. The week after the tournament, I picked up The Four Foundations of Golf by Jon Sherman (@practicalgolf on X), and before I even finished the intro, I felt like he was writing directly to me. Though I didn’t make worse than a double bogey over 36 holes (I made two 12-15 footers for double that elicited big fist pumps from your boy), I had four double bogeys on the day, and they are such momentum killers. If you’d asked me last year why I’m a three and not a scratch handicap, my answer would have been, “I don’t make enough birdies.” I’m finally realizing that’s just not the issue. I make too many double bogeys due to poor club selection, impatience, aggressive targets, and poor recovery shots. The good news is all of those things are within my control before I make a swing. As I prepare for the Long Island Mid Am and MGA Mid Am this Fall, I emphasize better targets off the tee and more conservative recovery shots (i.e., stop trying to hit a hero recovery shot).
  • All in all, I can’t wait to play in the next competitive event. I love hitting cups, challenging myself, and grinding for 36 holes, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to do the same. If your handicap is up in the double digits, consider competing in our handicapped No Laying Up events or joining a local Roosts. Both are fun, low-pressure ways to start your competitive golf journey.

My only other “GHIN” item this week is a shout-out to Marques Brownlee and his new video on Golf Technology. About halfway through the video, I realized that I never really knew how the ShotLink system worked and certainly had no idea that the walking scorer was like the guy or gal at the roulette table saying, “No more bets” late in the spin! It feels like the tour and broadcast only use a sliver of what’s possible from this technology weekly, but it was nice to look under the hood and see how impactful it could be. Also, Brownlee is a really talented video creator and communicator, and I like seeing him venture outside of technology product reviews.


The Smokers softball season rolls on after a 7th-inning walk-off win last Monday night in the North Meadow of Central Park. I’m back at shortstop this season, and I’m starting to develop an excellent connection with our new first baseman, a Nest member we brought in to mash as our clean-up hitter (shout out to @Dags98 on The Refuge). I’ve played on this softball team on and off since 2012, and it’s still one of the highlights of every New York summer.

Neil, Smokers SS.
Neil, Smokers SS.

As someone who now works from home, I look forward to the long subway ride from Brooklyn to the heart of Manhattan for an evening game. It feels like a worthy adventure out into the city that fills my office window, and it’s always a treat to play down on the Hecksher fields by Columbus Circle, where the skyscrapers of Midtown tower over the field, making me feel like we’re playing in the world’s biggest stadium. This corner of Central Park is also teeming with tourists, who gawk at us daft Americans taking our sportive competition too seriously.

Still, these unintended “fans” give games a little extra juice, and when I inevitably move to suburbia, Smokers softball will top the list of things I will miss about NYC. My awareness of that fact is gratifying. It’s helping me savor every game. Like my thoughts on competitive golf above, this softball team reinforces how significant low-stakes but meaningful competition is to my well-being. I know that may sound trite, but it’s true. I love it. Organized competition is the best, and I’d encourage you to find something similar.

Content I’m Consuming:

Outside of the Four Fundamentals of Golf, I recently picked up the book Fire Weather by John Vaillant, and I can’t put it down. It’s a fascinating but sobering exploration of why wildfires are getting bigger, hotter, and more devastating. Vaillant uses the 2016 Fort McMurray fire that ravaged the forest and petroleum industry based in Alberta, Canada, to explore climate change and its impact on Northern forests worldwide. With this book as context, the climate protesters on Sunday at the Travelers might have a point, even if how they deliver the message does much more harm than good to any real progress in fighting climate change. I also loved Vaillant’s book The Tiger. I’m drawn to writers who can turn well-researched non-fiction and nature topics into riveting narratives. It’s the best combination of informative and entertaining.

Speaking of book selections, I’ve gotten a ton of value from Ryan Holiday’s monthly reading list, and I recently read his blog post 37 (or so) Lessons from a 37-year-old. Sometimes, I glaze over when the Stoic mafia starts cooking up mantras, but as I turn 35, I find the majority of these “lessons” hit home. This one hit home after reading too many comments back in May:

“9. Another sports analogy…the great ones tune out the crowd. It’s been a journey for me to wrap my head around tuning out not just the cheers but the reality that the bigger your audience is, by definition, the bigger the number of people who don’t like you. (I shudder to think how many people out there think I suck…so I don’t think about it!)”

I also enjoyed Charlie Warzel’s profile on Goose, and I’m fired up for my first Goose show and first concert at Forrest Hills, the old U.S. Open tennis venue in Queens. I will need a few weeks to reflect on the experience, so look for some thoughts on that in my next GHIN & Tonic appearance! In the meantime, here’s a picture of a sold-out crowd on a beautiful night in NYC.

Sold out Goose concert in New York City.
Sold out Goose concert in New York City.

Thanks for reading,