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The Barefoot Masters Golfer

Over the course of his career, Samuel Jackson Snead had eighty-two PGA victories, the most ever by a pro golfer.
June 15, 2017

Jackson, the youngest of six kids, was a backwoods boy who grew up in the mountains of Ashwood, Virginia. Along with his five brothers, he was expected to help his dad on their family farm. He loved to fish, hunt and play football.

As a seven year old, the only thing he knew about golf was that he could caddie for rich men who played the game at The Homestead, a nearby resort hotel. He worked hard to help his family make ends meet by lugging someone's golf bag for eighteen holes.

Then one day, in his teens, his life changed forever. He was injured playing the game he loved and his dream of being a star football player ended. Jackson was understandably upset, but the wheels were set in motion that would one day make him a sports legend. Homer, his brother, who was a golf fan, encouraged him to take up the game he admired. Since he already caddied at a golf course, why not learn to play golf.

Jackson was a gifted athlete and worked hard to teach himself the game. Using golf balls along with discarded clubs he found while caddying, he started his long climb to golf immortality. He often practiced barefoot and by the age of nineteen had become the assistant pro at The Homestead. He was a natural who perfected his game in a short period of time.

At age 24, he turned pro and finished fifth in his first tournament at Hershey, Pa. and showed the golfing world what was to become the famous "golden swing" for the first time. The next year he won five times on the circuit, including the Oakland Open at Clairemont Country Club in California.

 

Who was this Hall of Famer?

In 1938 at the age of 26, Samuel Jackson Snead - Sam Snead - was on his way to becoming one of the greatest golfers who ever played the game. He earned the nickname "Slammin' Sammy" because he would consistently drive the ball off the tee over 300 yards in an era, when drivers were made of wood, not metal. His long irons were magic from the fairway and his short game was even better. He was very creative around the greens and pioneered the use of the sand wedge to chip from the fairway and around the green. On those rare occasions when he would lose his rhythm, he would remove his shoes and socks and play barefoot to regain his form. One of the more memorable times he did this was in the 1942 Masters, when he played nine holes barefoot.

Over the course of his career, Snead had eighty-two PGA victories, the most ever by a pro golfer. The next closest golfers on that list are Jack Nicklaus with seventy-three victories and Ben Hogan with sixty-four. Snead's trademark look included a straw hat with a colorful hat band and a sport shirt, often buttoned up to the neck and tightly tucked into his pleated trousers. His smile was infectious and he had an army of fans, well before Arnold Palmer arrived on the scene.

In 1960, when his putting deteriorated due to his age, he began to putt crochet style and straddled the ball, but in 1968, the USGA outlawed the style with a rule change. Undaunted, he changed his style again to a side-saddle approach and put both feet toward the hole on an angle and putted that way for the remainder of his career.

In 1954, he recorded his last major championship with a victory at the Masters. Many fans and sports writers agree that this was arguably the finest moment in a Hall of Fame career. After seventy-two holes of play, Snead was tied with another future Hall of Famer, Ben Hogan, and the next day in an eighteen hole playoff, Snead defeated Hogan by a final score of 70 to 71.

During his career he had 165 professional wins, including seven majors: the Masters in 1949, 1952, and 1954; the PGA in 1942, 1949 and 1951 and the British Open in 1946. Slammin' Sammy was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

 

19th Hole Trivia:

• Sam Snead never won a U.S. Open Tournament (he finished second four times)

• He was the only man to win an official LPGA event. (1962-defeated Mickey Wright)

• He once told a golf pupil, "You need to take two weeks off and then quit."

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