Sam's Golf Swing Highlights
Snead's fluid but powerful swing seemed effortless, a classic swing that kept him on course well into his 60s. Leaning on his natural ability, Snead didn't practice as much as his peers and didn't tinker much with his form.
1912 - 2002
"I figured early that the best swing was a one-piece swing that let you get rid of all the hitches, the things that throw you off," he said.
He played golf at an elite level longer than anyone. He won the most PGA Tour events, 81, and is recognized for winning 135 tournaments over his career, including seven majors.
Slammin' Sammy became the PGA Tour's oldest titlist when, at 52 years and 10 months, he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open. In 1979, his last season on tour, he became the first PGA player to shoot his age with a 67 in the Quad Cities Open and capped that weekend with a 66. He was around long enough to help get two U.S. tours rolling, the PGA and the PGA Seniors.
The only smudge on his record was the U.S. Open, the one major he didn't win. Snead was runner-up at the Open four times between 1937 and 1953, near-misses that hurt his image.
"Sure, it bugs me that they make such a big deal of it because I never won the U.S. Open," he said, "but I must have been playing pretty good and sinking putts when I won those three Masters, three PGAs and the British Open."
Snead was born on May 27, 1912, in the rural mountains of Hot Springs, Va. He grew up in a poor farming family, hunting and fishing and dreaming of becoming a football star. He caddied at the local resort to help his family, and began playing golf with his older brother, Homer. A back injury ended his football days, putting him in line to pursue a golf career.
He switched resorts in his early 20s, going from the Cascades in Hot Springs to the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., where he became a club pro. Snead played mostly local and regional tournaments in 1936, winning the West Virginia Closed Pro and placing fifth in a PGA Tour event in Hershey, Pa.
The next year, he went to the West Coast to play the tour fulltime. In his second California tournament, the Oakland Open, Snead came from third place on the final day to gain his first PGA Tour victory.
Days later, when he saw his picture in a New York newspaper, the story goes that he asked tour manager Fred Corcoran, "How could they get a picture of me in New York? I ain't ever been there." Snead later suggested that he was merely kidding, but the line got plenty of publicity and enhanced his hillbilly reputation.
He also was known for being a penny-pincher, a trait perhaps rising from his skepticism over the tour's viability. Snead, though, helped solidify the pro game, winning fans with his sweet swing, long drives and country charm. Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson -- all born the same year -- formed the era's Big Three of golf, but it was Snead's style and accessibility that catapulted the pro circuit.
Nelson said that Snead disproved the notion that you couldn't hit the ball both hard and straight. "He had great rhythm and about the best turn of anybody," Nelson said. Golf writer Bill Fields said Snead's swing "used to resemble a Faulkner sentence. It was long, laced with the perfect pause and blessed with a powerful ending."
Click on the Video Camera to view Sam Snead's golf swing