Henry Picard’s rise from that of a small club professional to one of elite golfer certainly didn’t come without trying times.
In 1931, Picard was working as the head pro at Charleston Country Club in South Carolina when the Depression hit. Picard found himself with $5 in his pocket and his bank locked the doors. To make matters worse, he and his wife, Sunny, were expecting their first child and Charleston Country Club’s membership was dwindled due to falling businesses. As a result, Picard was told the club could no longer afford his salary.
There were a few in Charleston, however, that still had money and wanted to see Picard’s goal of making the professional tour become a reality. Their solution was, since no salary could be afforded, they would pay Picard based on his golf scores – $5 if he played a round even par, $10 if he was 1 under par and so forth. The result was if he played well then there was food to feed his family. If not, then hunger was on the horizon. This system certainly familiarized Picard with playing under pressure.
"I had my day. Don't kid yourself. I knew who could beat me, but once in a while I beat them."
About a month before the 1935 Ryder Cup, Picard began a lifelong relationship with one of the early pioneers of golf instruction. Despite the fact that he had won several events in the preceding two years Picard sought out the advice and teachings of Alex Morrison.
Picard took eight days to learn the Morrison system of golf, hitting more than 500 golf balls a day and practicing the distinctive foot roll that was a big part of Morrison’s method until he had bleeding blisters on his feet.
The results were undeniable. Picard, who eventually entered into a contract with Morrison in 1936 to promote the system of teaching, won 21 of his 26 official Tour victories between 1935-39.
Following a thumb injury, after a victory in the 1938 Pasadina Open that forced him to change his grip from an overlapping grip to an interlocking one, Picard went on to even greater heights. Picard won his first major three weeks later at the 1938 Masters Tournament. His first place check was for the sum of $1,500. The 1939 PGA Championship, then played at match play, at Pomonak Country Club came down to a scheduled 36-hole finals match between reigning US Open champ Byron Nelson and Henry Picard.
A pioneering golf instructor, instrumental in teaching Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, along with legions of amateurs.
Picard led much of the finals until the 29th hole when Nelson squared the match with a birdie. A birdie at the 32nd by Nelson gave him his first lead of the match. Perhaps the turning point in the match for Picard came at the 34th hole, where Picard, 1-down, sank a 25-foot par putt to keep from going 2-down with two holes to play.
After having the 35th hole, both Nelson and Picard had birdie putts at the last. Nelson failed to convert his try from 10 feet, while Picard made his from 4 feet out to force a playoff.
Both players hit their drives 275 yards down the fairway. When Picard arrived at his ball he found it buried – run over by a sound truck. Picard got a free drop, though, and put his approach to 10 feet, while Nelson faced just a 5-foot putt for birdie.
Picard’s birdie attempt was successful, and Nelson, after studying his lone long and hard, missed his putt. Picard had won his second major championship in one of the more memorable duels in PGA Championship history.
Seeing Henry Picard doling out advice and tips on the practice tee to professional golfers seeking a remedy for a duck hook or a cure for the slice was a common scene in the 1930s.
Ben Hogan and Sam Snead are two of the most well-known names whom Picard helped “straighten out”. Picard fixed Hogan’s duck hook (Hogan needed to hit the ball with more power to close the club face) and Snead’s inconsistent driving (a minor fix in his club position at the top of the golf swing).