Golf: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is the golfer, that is most overlooked, when talking about the greatest golfers of all time. Other than Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there is not a lot of argument given, for anybody, to join them. in the discussion of the greatest golfer of all time. In fact, in some rankings, you might find Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, and even Harry Vardon ranked ahead of Snead. The biggest reason for this, is that Snead has this gaping hole in his record, of never being able to win the U. S. Open. He finished 2ond four times, and the one that stands out, is the 1939 Open, where he needed just a par to win the tournament, and made a triple bogey 8, to fall to 5th place. Snead said, that he thought he needed a birdie to just tie for the lead, and played the hole aggressively, which resulted in the 8. Such a thing would have never happened today, with all the scoreboards around. It is not to say that he would have parred the hole, but he certainly would have played it differently. But Snead’s career had many more highlights, than lowlights.

He won 7 major titles, 3 Masters, 3 PGA’s, when it was a match play tournament, and one British Open. He has 82 official PGA tour wins, and but also a total of 142 professional wins, including being the only man to win an LPGA event. It was in 1962, a par 3 event in Florida, and Snead defeated 14 LPGA players including Mickey Wright. It was held the previous year with 24 men and women playing, and Snead finished 3rd, losing by 2 shots to Louise Suggs. Snead joined the tour in 1937, and over the next 25 seasons won at least one tournament every year, except for 1943, due to military service, 1947, and 1959. He won the Greensboro Open for the 8th time, in 1965, at the age of 54, making him the oldest winner of a PGA tour event, to this day. He won on the senior tour in 1980, making him the only golfer to win senior and regular tour events over 6 decades. Snead made a lot of noise on the PGA tour, even when he was in his sixties. He made the cut at the U.S. Open at age 61, which is a record. He finished in the top ten in three consecutive PGA Championships at ages 60 to 62. In 1974 at 61-62 years of age, he played in 13 events, made the cut 11 times, and finished in the top five 3 times, a 2ond, a 3rd, and a 4th. In 1979 at age 67, still competing on the PGA tour, he was the youngest player to ever shoot his age. On longevity alone, this man could be considered the greatest of all time. His greatest year was 1950. Playing in 25 tournaments, he won 11, finished second in 5 and 3rd in 2. Yet, Ben Hogan was voted player of the year, because of his comeback, and winning the U.S. Open, his only win that year. Before Tiger, Golf Digest voted Snead the 3rd greatest golfer of all time, behind Nicklaus and Hogan. There has always been, some kind of prejudice against Snead, for some reason, in the golfing press.

Snead had this kind of down home folksy persona, but he was, also, pretty much of a skin flint, and was always looking for ways to make money, from everyday activities. There were many stories from the Greenbriar, where he was the pro, where he would ask to join a group, then ask for 100 dollars, from each member of the threesome, to do so. He was notorious for not tipping caddies, and for keeping all his money in cans, buried in the back yard. Nobody in the media, really wanted to ordain this guy, with the G.O.A.T. tag. The U.S.G.A. never seem to like Snead either. The method of croquet putting, where you straddle the line, was invented around 1961, and was being used in sanctioned professional events. It wasn’t until Snead started using it in 1967, to combat the yips, that the USGA got all up in arms about it, and banned the method in 1968. Snead was considered double jointed, meaning he had hypermotility in his joints. There is the famous picture of Snead kicking the top of a door frame when he was in his seventies. How much this helped his swing will never be known. Sam Snead was just a better and more natural player than Ben Hogan. When you think of the greatest golfer of all time you can not simply look at statistics. Think of a beautiful and powerful swing that created some of the finest shots in the history of golf. Think of somebody who played competitively, on the PGA tour, for over 40 years. Think of Sam Snead.

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