Sam was an American golfer who was one of the top players in the world for most of 4 decades. He and two others of the greatest golfers of all time, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, were born within 6 months of each other in 1912. He won a record 82 PGA Tour events and about 70 others worldwide. He won seven majors: three Masters, three PGA Championships and one British Open. In spite of his great achievements, his reputation has always been slightly tainted by his failure to win a U.S. Open.
Snead was famed for his folksy image, wearing a straw hat and playing tournaments barefoot, and making such statements as “Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey, and never concede a putt.” His nickname was “Slammin’ Sammy.” He has also been admired by many for having the so-called “perfect swing,” and generated many imitators. Snead was born in Ashwood, Virginia near Hot Springs, Virginia. At the age of seven he began caddying at The Homestead in Hot Springs; he worked as an assistant pro at The Homestead at 19, and became a professional in 1934. Snead maintained ties to Hot Springs and The Homestead for all of his life; he 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. His nephew J. C. Snead was also a PGA Tour golfer. Snead won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
In 1937, his first year on the Tour, he won five events, including the Oakland Open at Claremont Country Club in California.
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.
1939 was the first of several times he failed at crucial moments of the U.S. Open, the only major event he never won.
He won 11 events in 1950. No one has since won more in one year.
He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average four times: 1938, 1949, 1950, and 1955.
He played on seven Ryder Cup teams: 1937, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1959, and captained the team in 1951, 1959, and 1969.
In 1971, he won the PGA Professional National Championship.
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.
Records Still Standing:
Most PGA Tour victories: 82
Most PGA Tour victories at an event: 8 at the Greater Greensboro Open (1938, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1965)
Oldest player to win a PGA Event: Player age at time of win: 52 years, 10 months, 8 days at the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open
First PGA Tour player to shoot his age: 67 in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open
Oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour: Player age at date of cut: 67 years, 2 months, 21 days at the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic.
He also held the record for most PGA Tour wins after reaching age 40, with 17, until it was broken at the 2007 Mercedes-Benz Championship by Vijay Singh.