Sam Snead

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Sam Snead
Sam Snead 1967.JPG
Personal Information
Birth May 27, 1912
Ashwood, Virginia
Death May 23, 2002
Hot Springs, Virginia
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg)
Nationality Flag of United States United States
Turned Pro 1934
Retired 1979
Professional wins 165 (PGA Tour: 82, Senior: 13, Other: 70)
Best Results in Major Championships
Wins: 7
Masters Won 1949, 1952, 1954
U.S. Open 2nd/T2: 1937, 1947, 1949, 1953
British Open Won 1946
PGA Championship Won 1942, 1949, 1951
PGA Tour
Money Winner
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).

Early Life

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.

Early Golfing years

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."

Professional Career

First Year Success

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.

Career Highlights

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."[1].

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."[1]

1950 Season

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."[1]

Other milestones

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.

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.

Sweet Swing

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.

Putting Troubles

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."[2] 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.

PGA Tour wins (82)

  • 1936 (1) West Virginia Closed Pro
  • 1937 (5) Oakland Open, Bing Crosby Pro-Am, St. Paul Open, Nassau Open, Miami Open
  • 1938 (8) Bing Crosby Pro-Am, Greater Greensboro Open, Chicago Open, Canadian Open, Westchester 108 Hole Open, White Sulphur Springs Open, Inverness Invitational (with Vic Ghezzi), Palm Beach Round Robin
  • 1939 (3) St. Petersburg Open, Miami Open, Miami-Biltmore Four-Ball (with Ralph Guldahl)
  • 1940 (3) Canadian Open, Anthracite Open, Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (with Ralph Guldahl)
  • 1941 (6) Bing Crosby Pro-Am, St. Petersburg Open, North and South Open, Canadian Open, Rochester Times Union Open, Henry Hurst Invitational
  • 1942 (2) St. Petersburg Open, PGA Championship
  • 1944 (2) Portland Open, Richmond Open
  • 1945 (6) Los Angeles Open, Gulfport Open, Pensacola Open, Jacksonville Open, Dallas Open, Tulsa Open
  • 1946 (6) Jacksonville Open, Greater Greensboro Open, The Open Championship (not counted as a PGA Tour win at the time, but designated as such in 2002), World Championship of Golf, Miami Open, Virginia Open
  • 1948 (1) Texas Open
  • 1949 (6) Greater Greensboro Open, The Masters, Washington Star Open, Dapper Dan Open, Western Open, PGA Championship
  • 1950 (11) Los Angeles Open, Bing Crosby Pro-Am (tie with Jack Burke, Jr, Smiley Quick, Dave Douglas), Texas Open, Miami Beach Open, Greater Greensboro Open, Western Open, Colonial National Invitation, Inverness Four-Ball Invitational (with Jim Ferrier), Reading Open, North and South Open, Miami Open
  • 1951 (2) PGA Championship, Miami Open
  • 1952 (5) The Masters, Palm Beach Round Robin, Inverness Round Robin Invitational (with Jim Ferrier), All American Open, Eastern Open
  • 1953 (1) Baton Rouge Open
  • 1954 (2) The Masters, Palm Beach Round Robin
  • 1955 (4) Greater Greensboro Open, Palm Beach Round Robin, Insurance City Open, Miami Open
  • 1956 (1) Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1957 (2) Dallas Open Invitational, Palm Beach Round Robin
  • 1958 (1) Dallas Open Invitational
  • 1960 (2) De Soto Open Invitational, Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1961 (1) Tournament of Champions
  • 1965 (1) Greater Greensboro Open

Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins

this list may be incomplete

  • 1936 West Virginia Open
  • 1937 West Virginia Open
  • 1938 West Virginia Open
  • 1948 West Virginia Open
  • 1949 North and South Open, West Virginia Open
  • 1957 West Virginia Open
  • 1958 West Virginia Open
  • 1960 West Virginia Open
  • 1961 West Virginia Open
  • 1966 West Virginia Open
  • 1967 West Virginia Open
  • 1968 West Virginia Open
  • 1970 West Virginia Open
  • 1971 PGA Club Professional Championship, West Virginia Open
  • 1972 West Virginia Open
  • 1973 West Virginia Open

Senior wins (14)

  • 1964 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Seniors
  • 1965 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Seniors
  • 1967 PGA Seniors' Championship
  • 1970 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Seniors
  • 1972 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Seniors
  • 1973 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Seniors
  • 1978 Legends of Golf (with Gardner Dickinson)
  • 1980 Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am
  • 1982 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (with Don January)

Major Championships

Wins (7)

Year Championship 54 Holes Winning Score Margin Runners Up
1942 PGA Championship N/A 2 & 1 2 strokes Flag of United States Jim Turnesa
1946 The Open Championship Tied for lead -2 (71-70-74-75=290) 4 strokes Flag of United States Johnny Bulla, Flag of South Africa Bobby Locke
1949 The Masters 1 stroke deficit -6 (73-75-67-67=282) 3 strokes Flag of United States Johnny Bulla, Flag of United States Lloyd Mangrum
1949 PGA Championship (2) N/A 3 & 2 3 strokes Flag of United States Johnny Palmer
1951 PGA Championship (3) N/A 7 & 6 7 strokes Flag of United States Walter Burkemo
1952 The Masters (2) Tied for lead -2 (70-67-77-72=286) 4 strokes Flag of United States Jack Burke Jr.
1954 The Masters (3) 3 shot deficit +1 (74-73-70-72=289) Playoff 1 Flag of United States Ben Hogan

Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958.
1 Defeated Ben Hogan in 18-hole playoff - Snead (70), Hogan (71)

Results timeline

Tournament 1937 1938 1939
The Masters 18 T31 2
U.S. Open 2 T38 5
The Open Championship T11 DNP DNP
PGA Championship R16 2 DNP
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
The Masters T7 T6 T7 NT NT NT T7 T22 T16 1
U.S. Open T16 T13 NT NT NT NT T19 2 5 T2
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT 1 DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship 2 QF 1 NT DNP DNP R32 R32 QF 1
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
The Masters 3 T8 1 T15 1 3 T4 2 13 T22
U.S. Open T12 T10 T10 2 T11 T3 T24 T8 CUT T8
PGA Championship R32 1 R64 R32 QF R32 QF R16 3 T8
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
The Masters T11 T15 T15 T3 CUT CUT T42 T10 42 CUT
U.S. Open T19 T17 T38 T42 T34 T24 DNP DNP T9 T38
PGA Championship T3 T27 T17 T27 DNP T6 T6 DNP T34 T63
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
The Masters T23 CUT T27 T29 T20 WD CUT WD CUT CUT
PGA Championship T12 T34 T4 T9 T3 CUT CUT T54 DNP T42
Tournament 1980 1981 1982 1983
The Masters CUT CUT WD WD
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship WD WD 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.

Summary of major championship performances

  • Starts - 117
  • Wins - 7
  • 2nd place finishes - 8
  • Top 3 finishes - 22
  • Top 5 finishes - 29
  • Top 10 finishes - 48 (includes appearances in the Round of 16 in the PGA Championship during its match-play era)
  • Longest streak of top-10s in majors - 6


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bob Carter, Only old age could stop Snead ESPN Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  2. Sam Snead Facts Retrieved August 12, 2015.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

External links

All links retrieved December 22, 2022.


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