Sunday, October 5, 2008

Golf Legends - Sam Snead

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“Sam Snead did to the tee shot what Roger Bannister did to the four minute mile”

-Byron Nelson

Samuel Jackson Snead, a phenomenon from Ashwood, Virginia who redefined power hitting in Golf. His ‘Honey Sweet’ swing helped him in a large part to build up a legacy as one of the finest the world of golf has ever seen. In a career that spanned nearly four decades, Sam Snead notched up as many as 82 PGA Tour victories, the maximum by any player and a record that is being chased down in great earnest by Tiger Woods.

Born in a family that was not very affluent, Sam Snead’s first few golf clubs were nothing more than carved wood. But he wasn’t going to let that be a deterrent. At a time when Golf was still a rich man’s sport, Sam Snead with his country boy style was a refreshing change. He once said “If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do in a golf club, they'd starve to death”. That was the kind of person he was, proud to wear his ‘small town boy’ badge but talented enough to ensure that no one was going to forget his name in a hurry.

A tribute to the remarkable spirit of this great athlete was the fact that he played the game actively even when he was more than 70 years old. While this year everyone has been talking about Greg Norman’s remarkable third place finish as a 52 year old at the 2008 Open Championship, Sam Snead had in fact got a third place finish to his credit at the 1974 PGA Championship as a 62 year old. The eventual winner that year was Lee Trevino but he just finished three strokes behind. He attributed his remarkable athleticism even at an old age to his squirrel hunting days in his childhood in Ashwood.

He had patented the Wyndham Championship trophy in his name. During his playing days this regular PGA Tour event in North Carolina was known as the Greater Greensbro Open. He won it as many as 8 times, a record on the tour with his first victory coming in 1938 and his last win there came in 1965 when he won as 52 year old, the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event.

Somehow he could not transfer his voracious appetite for winning tournaments on the PGA Tour to the Majors. He managed to win his first major only after he had 27 tour victories to his credit. But if at the end of the career a professional golfer has 7 Major wins to his credit then he will go down in the annals of history as one of the better exponents of the golfing art. The only blot, if you may so, was that he never managed to win the U.S. Open. He later on went to write in his autobiography “whether it was some kind of a jinx or whatever, it seemed that whenever the USGA flag went up at the Open, so did my score”.

A charming person and a true legend, he will go down in the annals of history as a great champion

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