Snyder Mt Rushmore GolfTales RJSmiley

The Snydes, Johnny Snyder

Sorry I missed my good friend Johnny "The Snydes" Snyder on his recent trip to Minnesota. I had to publish the story. Enjoy, this story about Minnesota golf treasure.

On a recent trip to Orlando I pulled off the FL Turnpike at The Villages exit.  I was looking for Johnny’s Birdies Golf Shop owned by my old friend Johnny Snyder. 

I first met Johnny in the late 70’s.  He was a kid with northeast Minneapolis attitude and a real golf game.  For those who don’t know a northeast Minneapolis attitude – defensive, rebellious, disrespectful.  “The Snydes,” as he was known (and still is today by lifetime acquaintances) was a lanky skinny kid with a combination of a smile and a cocky sneer frozen on his face.  Almost reminded you of Elvis.

The Snydes, always referred to himself in the third person: “The Snydes can drive his ball.”  “The Snydes can putt his egg.”  “The Snydes loves the action.”  

Playing golf against The Snydes was tough.  You had to admired his golf game but you better fear his cocky confidence.  That cocky confidence has helped The Snydes win golf tournaments over a 40 years span. 

The Snydes was a tough competitor in the early days and still is today; on the golf course and in business.  In addition to being a great golfer the Snydes is a tough minded, street smart entrepreneur who has a nose for making a buck.        

The Snydes had come to Mille Lacs Golf Resort with some guys from Columbia Golf Course to play in the annual Mille Lacs Classic Golf Tournament.  He had a cute little girl friend who  seemed to worship him as they road together on his golf cart.  Imagine a teenager from northeast Minneapolis with a golf cart shared with a little cutie who could not keep her hands off him.  

On the second hole, a little down hill par-3 playing into the wind with the flagstick cut back right, The Snydes hit towering 9-iron about a foot from the cup.  The cutie giggled as The Snydes turned to me and said, “The Snydes can play.”  That was the first shot I ever saw The Snydes play.  I will remember it forever!  It was not the smart play into the wind but it took great skill to pull it off.

Since then, I have played hundreds of holes agains The Snydes; always $10 per hole, double on birdies, triple for eagles.  The balance is tilted in favor of The Snydes.  One of the few guys I could loose to and still enjoy game.

Johnny Snyder started playing golf at age 6 at Columbia Park Golf Course and parlayed that humble start to playing in two US Opens Championships.  He played one fully exempt year on the PGA Tour and won the Minnesota State Open.  He won back to back Minnesota Publinks Championships in 1980 & 1981.  The Snydes was great….. but not quite great enough.

Bud Chapman, famous Minnesota Golf Artist, did this painting featuring Johnny with guess who? Johnny and caddie, Chico, lower right corner.

Over the years as Johnny played mini tour events and various state opens and Dakota Tour events.  He had some wins and made a few bucks.  As a married man with 2 boys and business mind, in his free time The Snydes invented the weighted golf club and ran two beauty salons with his wife.

As he approached age 50 (Tour Champions age) Johnny had mellowed was living in Florida.  The cocky kid had transformed into a friendly businessman with an air of confidence.  He was working hard on his game and even harder on his body to become physically superior to others who hoped to qualify for the dream tour.  Johnny always out-worked the others.  An accident that almost severed his left foot ended that Tour Champions dream before it began.

Five years later The Snydes made one more attempt to play.  In 2007 Johnny won 5 times including the Arizona Sr State open and the Nebraska Sr State Open.  He was low qualifier in the sectional qualifier for the Tour Champions but failed to make the final stage by one shot.  Johnny retired from competitive golf and got his amateur status back.  

Johnny purchased Birdies Golf Shop in The Villages.  The ever expanding golf mecca was a perfect place for The Snydes.  He has combined his friendly nature, street smarts and the entrepreneurial mind to grow Birdies into the busiest golf shop in The Villages.  (The Villages now has 680 holes of golf and is growing at a healthy pace with more golf coming.)  If you are looking for golf clubs Johnny’s Birdies Golf is the place to start.  If he does not have it, you can’t find one.  As his customer base has grown so as his staff and floor space.  

Johnny loves to make deals and is a fun guy to do business with.  He has that ability to make people feel like they got the best side of any deal.  He is a savvy buyer who knows his stuff.  But most of all he understands that his customers are king.  He has a great staff, but “The Snydes” is the top salesman.

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