Sam Snead was the greatest athlete among golf’s great champions. The swing he employed to win tournaments over six decades remains the archetype of power and grace, his longevity the benchmark of an incredible talent.
In more than 50 years as an active competitor, Snead won a record 82 official PGA TOUR events, and he can safely claim more than 140 worldwide. Nicknamed “The Slammer” for the strength of his shots, he won seven major championships.
At a long-limbed 5-10 and 185 pounds, Snead was classically configured and preternaturally gifted. In high school, he could run the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds flat. Into his 70’s he could, from a dead standstill, kick the top of a seven-foot doorway. His movements were almost musical, and it was no surprise to anyone that Snead had taught himself to play the banjo and the trumpet by ear. As a boy, who preferred to go barefoot, he learned golf in much the same way, and on those rare occasions when his rhythm was off, he could regain it by removing his shoes and socks, as he did for nine holes at the 1942 Masters.
Once during a discussion of his swing keys, Snead said simply, “I try to feel oily.” On another occasion he said, “When I swing at a golf ball right, my mind is blank and my body is loose as a goose.”