|Birth||May 27, 1912
|Death||May 23, 2002
Hot Springs, Virginia
|Height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|Professional wins||165 (PGA Tour: 82, Senior: 13, Other: 70)|
|Best Results in Major Championships
|Masters||Won 1949, 1952, 1954|
|U.S. Open||2nd/T2: 1937, 1947, 1949, 1953|
|British Open||Won 1946|
|PGA Championship||Won 1942, 1949, 1951|
|1938, 1949, 1950|
Player of the Year
|Vardon Trophy||1938, 1949, 1950, 1955|
Samuel Jackson "Sam" Snead (May 27, 1912 – May 23, 2002) was an American golfer who won 81 tournaments on the PGA Tour, and 80 more worldwide. Using his big drives, and picture-perfect golf swing, he won seven majors: three Masters, three PGA Championships and one British Open. Despite his championship victories in three of the major tournaments, Snead was never able to win the U.S. Open, finishing second in the tournament four times. Snead was the ultimate competitor who loved to win, whether it was a PGA tournament or a two dollar "nassau" (a type of golf bet).
Snead was born in Ashwood, Virginia near Hot Springs, Virginia. He was the son of a poor Virgina farmer. During his childhood, one of Snead's favorite hobbies was squirrel hunting, an activity he later accredited as a reason he had such accuracy off the tee. He began to play the sport of golf because of his older brother, Homer, who was involved in the sport. Like many young golfers during this era, he earned money by caddying at The Homestead in Hot Springs.
During high school, the young Snead showed his amazing athletic ability, playing baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. When Snead initially learned Golf fundamentals, he thought they were fairly easy, but didn't enjoy the sport as much as football. After a back injury forced Snead to reconsider his dream to be a star on the football field, he began to practice golf.
When Snead wasn't caddying for members of the club, he was cleaning golf clubs, running errands for his boss, and practicing his game at a local nine hole course which the caddies were allowed to play. His life was focused around the sport of golf, and after constant practice with his run-down clubs, Snead developed arguably the sweetest Golf swing the sport had ever seen. In his biography, Snead recalls the reaction of local players when they saw the swing he had developed: "You see, the truth is, the days when I started swinging a club, golf was a rich man's sport," Snead writes in his autobiography, "kind of like polo almost. But you can bet at first they didn't like seeing a skinny hayseed like me, with funny clothes and my homemade clubs, coming out on the course and showing 'em how it's done."
In 1937, Snead moved to the west coast to start his career on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tour. Traveling around the country in a used car, it didn't take long for him to make his presence felt by other golfers. He finished seventh in the Los Angeles Open, and won his first tournament at the Oakland Open at Claremount Country Club, shortly thereafter. Snead would win five total tournaments on the year, his other four coming at the Nassau Open Bing Crosby Invitational, the Miami Open, and the St. Paul Open. From 1937 to 1949, he would win at least two tournaments each year on tour. While Snead had already won several tournaments, he made his first big statement on tour when he finished second at the U.S. Open, the first of four times he would finish in second place at the event. Snead also finished third on the PGA Money List, with $10,243, and a year later he was golf's number one money winner, with winnings totaling $19,334. His down to earth manner and extremely outgoing personality made him one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour and soon began drawing crowds of spectators.
In 1938, he first won the Greater Greensboro Open, which he won eight times, the Tour record for victories at an event, concluding in 1965 at the age of 52, making him the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event. At the end of the golf calender year, in which Snead placed second in both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, he was awarded the Vardon Memorial Trophy as the best golfer of the year. 1939 was the first of several times he failed at crucial moments of the U.S. Open, this time when paired with Byron Nelson. Snead went into the last hole thinking he only needed a par to win the tournament, when in actuality, the golfer needed a birdie. Playing too aggressive, he ended up with a triple bogey, and lost. Later in 1947, Snead again lost his composure when he lost to Lew Worsham. Although leading by two strokes with three to play, Snead missed a 30-foot birdie putt to give Worsham the title by a single stroke. Later in his career, when asked about the U.S. Open that always evaded him he said, "I should have won the Open. If I shoot one 69 in the last round, I'd have won seven of them.".
He won his first major in the 1942 PGA Championship
Snead played 42 years on the pro tour, and ended his career with 81 tournament victories, 11 more than runner-up Jack Nicklaus. He also was the last golfer to win ten or more events in a year when he won 11 in 1950. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average four times: 1938, 1949, 1950, and 1955. Snead played on seven Ryder Cup teams: 1937, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1959, and captained the team in 1951, 1959, and 1969.
His first Masters victory was at the age of 36, in 1949. To take home the trophy he shot 5-under 67's in the last two rounds, and won the tournament by three strokes. Snead would earn two more championships at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia in 1952, and 1954. In the last victory, he earned the title by defeating Ben Hogan in a 18-hole playoff by one stroke. Snead commented on the win 40 years later: "I can remember that Masters, I can put the flags in every green. I can tell you what Hogan had on each hole, how many putts he had on each hole, how many greens he missed and how many greens he hit. I beat him on the par-5s."
Snead had a dominating year in 1950 when he won 11 events, and had a tournament average of 69.23 over 96 rounds; both are still PGA Tour records today. While he had a terrific year on the course, he didn't win the player of the year award, which was given to Ben Hogan. Hogan was recovering from a near fatal car crash, and won the U.S Open. Many thought it was controversial, and when asked about the award, Snead said, "They could have given him a six-foot-high trophy that said 'Great Comeback."
In 1974, at age 62, he shot a one-under-par 279 to come in 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 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 fourth PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award.
While Sam Snead will be remembered for his records, and his longevity on the tour, most people will remember him for his amazing fluid golf swing. "No one ever swung a golf club like Sam because no one could, He has the longest tendons of anyone I ever saw, and they enable him to do things like bend his wrists so he could touch his arms with his fingers, front and back. That's how he kept that big swing of his under control," once said Johny Bulla of the Wall Street Journal. Because of his sweet swing, Snead had tremendous distance compared to other golfers during his era. He is known as the best long iron player of all time by many critics.
Snead had no trouble getting the ball onto the green, but putting it in the hole was always the problem. A mediocre putter, Snead tried to change his putting stroke when he lost his confidence on short putts. The golfer changed to a croquet-style putting stroke, an innovation that was eventually banned by the PGA Tour because it straddled the putting line. Students of the game claim his putting troubles began some time after 1946, because his putting was incredible during his British Open victory during that year. Snead talked about his putting in his book The Game I Love. In it he claims he was a good putter, especially putts that included a good lag or a fell putt. However, he admits that he was never a great putter, blaming his problems on becoming a wrist putter instead of an arm putter.
After retiring from the game in 1979, Snead focused on his hobbies of hunting, fishing, and sometimes golf. The only event he consistently played in competitively after he retired was Legends of Golf, but loved to hustle un-suspecting golfers for a win. When he was 86, Snead was planning on conducting a golf clinic for $8,000 when a "pigeon" (slang for an easy mark) suggested a $100.00 match. Just before the match started, he was quickly retrieved from playing by the director of golf and hurried back to the clinic where the attendees were anxiously waiting. "He can't resist a game," the Greenbrier director told a reporter, "it's not the money. He was going to forget an $8,000 clinic to play for $100.00. He just loves a match." As Snead is known for saying, "You don't have to hang from a tree to be a nut." Snead died in Hot Springs following complications from a stroke four days short of his 90th birthday. He was survived by two sons, Sam Jr., of Hot Springs, Virginia and Terry, of Mountain Grove, Virginia; a brother, Pete, of Pittsburgh; and two grandchildren. His wife, Audrey, died in 1990.
Snead will be remembered for incredible swing, hillbilly demeanor, and longevity on the PGA Tour. While some golfers have won more majors, Snead's resume is considered more impressive by some in golf because of how long he was able to stay in the game professionally; 41 years separate his first and last wins on the tour. He finished second in the U.S Open four times, and it will always be known to the golfer as the tournament that got away. Snead's resume on the tour, and his sweet swing earned him the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Major championships are shown in bold.
this list may be incomplete
|Year||Championship||54 Holes||Winning Score||Margin||Runners Up|
|1942||PGA Championship||N/A||2 & 1||2 strokes||Jim Turnesa|
|1946||The Open Championship||Tied for lead||-2 (71-70-74-75=290)||4 strokes||Johnny Bulla, Bobby Locke|
|1949||The Masters||1 stroke deficit||-6 (73-75-67-67=282)||3 strokes||Johnny Bulla, Lloyd Mangrum|
|1949||PGA Championship (2)||N/A||3 & 2||3 strokes||Johnny Palmer|
|1951||PGA Championship (3)||N/A||7 & 6||7 strokes||Walter Burkemo|
|1952||The Masters (2)||Tied for lead||-2 (70-67-77-72=286)||4 strokes||Jack Burke Jr.|
|1954||The Masters (3)||3 shot deficit||+1 (74-73-70-72=289)||Playoff 1||Ben Hogan|
Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958.
1 Defeated Ben Hogan in 18-hole playoff - Snead (70), Hogan (71)
|The Open Championship||T11||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||1||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||T6||DNP||DNP||CUT||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||CUT||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
R##—Round of 16, 32, etc. The PGA Championship was conducted at match play before 1958.
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10, or for Round of 16 appearance in PGA Championship pre-1958.
All links retrieved August 31, 2019.
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