Sam Snead (1912 - )
Known as 'Slammin Sam' because of his lengthy drives, Sam Snead was also blessed with a beautifully smooth swing. It brought him an outstanding 84 victories on the American tour and a further 80 worldwide. Amazingly the US Open always eluded him - he finished second four times between 1937 and 1949.
The son of a poor Virginian backwoods farmer, Snead lived a childhood typical of any boy growing up amidst the heavily wooded Virginian mountains. Days were spent hunting, fishing and in Snead's case, caddying at the local resort hotel in order to supplement his family's income .
Snead's older brother, Homer, was a fan of golf so he decided to try it. To his surprise, he found the technicalities quite easy to master. However his boyhood dream of being a football star held form and it was only when a back injury forced him to re-assess his ambition, that Snead began considering the prospect of a golfing career.
The world caught it's first glimpse of Snead's magic stroke at Hershey in 1936 . After nervously driving his first two balls out of bounds, he hit the first green 345 yards away and eventually managed to finish fifth. Desperately short of cash, a good finish at his fourth official event at Oakland earned him US$1,200. In the early years of his career, he was still quite doubtful about the long term financial viability of the golfing profession and so was quite cautious in his spending habits. It was from those early days that Snead's reputation for penny-pinching arose. An unfair accusation when his poor background is considered .
Because the nuances of the game came to him so easily, Snead never felt the need for marathon sessions on the range. Many are of the opinion that he often played below his potential. Snead admits that his approach to the game has been quite relaxed yet points to his record to show that his own unique philosophy towards it has served him well.
In contrast to his honey sweet stroke, Snead's up-front verbal manner has occasionally let him down. Never a fan of British courses, Snead was quite vocal in his denunciation of the country's golf facilities. In fact in 1946 because of contractual obligations to a sponsor, he was forced to play the Open. However his stay at St. Andrews probably softened his criticisms as he won the event for the first and last time that year- although he did compete again in 1962.
In 1979, he became the first player to score below his age; he shot 67 and 66 in the Quad Cities Open at the age of 67. Other notable achievements include victories in the US Masters in 1949, 1952 and 1954 plus the US PGA titles in 1942, 1949 and 1951. Eight times on the Ryder Cup squad, once as non-playing captain, Snead's involvement in golf has been a lengthy one. Two years after retiring from the Tour in 1979, he was actively involved in the creation of the Senior's Tour. .
A consistent competitor, Snead will be remembered for the shear magnitude of his victories and his swing will continue to be recalled with awe and envy