About Samuel Jackson "Sam" Snead
Samuel Jackson Snead (May 27, 1912 – May 23, 2002) was an American professional golfer who was one of the top players in the world for most of four decades. Snead won a record 82 PGA Tour events including seven majors. He failed to win a U.S. Open, though he was runner-up four times.
Snead's nickname was "Slammin' Sammy." He was admired by many for having the so-called "perfect swing," and generated many imitators. Snead was famed for his folksy image, wearing a straw hat, playing tournaments barefoot, and making such statements as "Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey, and never concede a putt. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, and received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.
Snead was born in Ashwood, Virginia near Hot Springs. At the age of seven, he began caddying at The Homestead in Hot Springs; he worked as an assistant pro at The Homestead at 19, and turned professional in 1934. Snead was self-taught. He joined the PGA Tour in 1936, and achieved immediate success. In 1944 he became head pro at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Snead maintained ties to Hot Springs and The Homestead for all of his life.
He served in the United States military during World War II, from 1942 to 1945.
In 1937, Snead's first full year on the Tour, he won five events, including the Oakland Open at Claremont Country Club in California.
In 1938, he first won the Greater Greensboro Open. He won that event a total of eight times, the Tour record, concluding in 1965 at the age of 52 years, 311 days, making him the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event.
The year 1939 was the first of several times he failed at crucial moments of the U.S. Open, the only major event he never won. Needing par to win, but not knowing this, since on-course scoreboards did not exist at that time, he posted an 8 on the par-5 72nd hole. Snead had been told on the 18th tee by a spectator that he needed a birdie to win.
At the U.S. Open in 1947, Snead missed a 21⁄2-foot putt on the final playoff hole to lose to Lew Worsham.
In 1950, he won 11 events. No one has since won more in one year. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average four times: 1938, 1949, 1950, and 1955. He played on seven Ryder Cup teams: 1937, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1959, and captained the team in 1951, 1959, and 1969.
At the 1952 Jacksonville Open, Snead forfeited rather than play a 18-hole playoff against Doug Ford after the two golfers finished in a tie at the end of regulation play. The forfeit stemmed from a ruling Snead received during the tournament's second round of play. On the 10th hole, Snead's drive landed behind an out of bounds stake. While Chick Harbert who was playing with Snead thought the ball was out of bounds, a rules official ruled differently due to the starter not telling players the stakes had been moved since the previous day's play had ended. Afterwards, Snead explained why he forfeited even though Ford suggested they play sudden death for the title. "I want to be fair about it. I don't want anyone to think I took advantage of the ruling."
In December 1959 Snead took part in a controversial match against Mason Rudolph, at the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda. Snead decided to deliberately lose the televised match, played under the 'World Championship Golf' series, during its final holes, after he discovered he had too many golf clubs in his bag on the 12th hole. The match was tied at that stage. A player is limited to 14 clubs during competitive rounds. The extra club in his bag, a fairway wood Snead had been experimenting with in practice, would have caused him to be immediately disqualified according to the Rules of Golf, even though he did not use it during the round. After the match was over, Snead explained the matter, and said he did not disqualify himself in order to not spoil the show. The problem did not become known outside a small circle until the show was televised four months later. After the incident came to light, the sponsor cancelled further participation in the series.
On February 7, 1962, Snead won the Royal Poinciana Plaza Invitational. He is the only man to ever win an official LPGA Tour event.
In 1971, he won the PGA Club Professional Championship at Pinehurst Resort.
In 1973, he became the oldest player to make a cut in a U.S. Open.
In 1974, at age 62, he shot a one-under-par 279 to finish third, three strokes behind winner Lee Trevino at the PGA Championship at Tanglewood in Clemmons, North Carolina.
In 1978, he won the first Legends of Golf event, which was the impetus for the creation two years later of the Senior PGA Tour, now known as the Champions Tour.
In 1979, he was the youngest PGA Tour golfer to shoot his age (67) in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open. He shot under his age (66) in the final round.
In 1983, at age 71, he shot a round of 60 (12-under-par) at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
In 1997, at age 85, he shot a round of 78 at the Old White course of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
In 1998, he received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, the fourth person to be so honored.
From 1984 to 2002, he hit the honorary starting tee shot at The Masters. Until 1999, he was joined by Gene Sarazen, and until 2001, by Byron Nelson.
Snead wrote several golf instructional books, and frequently wrote instructional columns in golf magazines. His 1962 autobiography was titled The Education of a Golfer.
In 2000, he was ranked the third greatest golfer of all time, in Golf Digest magazine's rankings. Jack Nicklaus was first, and Ben Hogan was second.
Snead was inducted into the West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame in 2009 with William C. Campbell.
Sam Snead died in Hot Springs, Virginia, in 2002 following complications from a stroke, four days before his 90th birthday. He was survived by two sons: Sam Jr. of Hot Springs, and Terry, of Mountain Grove, Virginia, and a brother, Pete, of Pittsburgh, as well as two grandchildren. His wife Audrey died in 1990. His nephew J.C. Snead was also a PGA Tour golfer.
During his peak years, Snead was an exceptionally long driver, particularly into the wind, with very good accuracy as well. He was a superb player with the long irons. Snead was also known for a very creative short game, pioneering use of the sand wedge for short shots from grass. As he aged, his putting deteriorated. Snead pioneered croquet-style putting in the 1960s, where he straddled the ball with one leg on each side. The United States Golf Association banned this technique in 1968 by amending the old Rule 35–1, since until that time, golfers had always faced the ball when striking. Snead then went to side-saddle putting, where he crouched and angled his feet towards the hole, and held the club with a split grip. He used that style for the rest of his career.