Success, longevity made Snead a legend

Updated: May 24, 2002, 6:48 PM ET
By Fred W. Kiger | Special to

Signature Event
April 12, 1954 - Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were the two brightest stars in golf. Each had won two of the previous five Masters. Hogan had led by three strokes going into yesterday's fourth round, but ballooned to a three-over-par 75, while Snead shot a par 72, giving each a 289 (15 strokes higher than Hogan's winning score a year earlier) and forcing today's 18-hole playoff.

After nine holes, they were tied at one under-par 35. Still knotted at one-under, they came to the par 5, 485-yard 13th known at Augusta National as the Azalea Hole, which was rated the easiest hole on the course.

Slammin' Sam had consistently been out-driving Hogan throughout the day and on this hole he crushed his tee shot some 20 yards beyond his opponent. After Hogan opted to lay up on his next shot, an aggressive Snead used a two-iron and ripped the ball to the green. With two putts, Snead recorded a birdie and took a lead he never relinquished.

Although Snead bogeyed the final hole, his 70 bested Hogan by one shot and earned him $5,000 as he became the second three-time Masters champion (Jimmy Demaret was the first). Snead's 289 remains tied for the highest winning score in Masters history.

Odds 'n' Ends
  • Until Tiger Woods, Snead was the quickest to reach 25 PGA victories, needing just 114 starts. Woods won No. 25 in his 104th start.

  • Snead's introduction to golf began with cleaning shoes and clubs for the members of the Cascade's Inn Club near Hot Springs, Virginia.

  • At seven, he "acquired" his first "club." It was fashioned from a swamp-maple stick with a knot at one end. Snead spent hours driving balls at targets in a pasture.

  • In 1937, Snead was plagued with a nagging hook. Fellow pro Henry Picard tried to help him by selling him a George Izett driver. One week later, Snead and the Izett driver overtook Picard to win the Oakland (California) Open by two strokes. Snead collected $1,200. He had paid Picard $5.50 for the club.

  • At the 1946 British Open, Snead's caddie showed up drunk. Firing him, his next caddie had the distracting habit of whistling through his teeth as Snead hit. His center-shafted putter was disallowed. Yet he shook all the bad "vibes" and won the tournament by four strokes.

  • Sponsored by Wilson, Snead played 71 holes of the 1946 British Open with another brand of ball. For the last hole, he finally teed up a Wilson ball.

  • Jimmy Demaret fed Snead's "hillbilly" image when he joked that Snead stuffed his prize money into tomato cans and buried them in his yard. Not in the too distant future, Snead returned home one night and found a man who was digging up his yard with a pick and shovel.

  • Snead and his pilot were full throttle preparing to leave Greenfield, Iowa, when the plane scraped a parked aircraft, spun, took out two billboards, crashed through a barbed-wire fence and plowed into a ditch. Both survived. Snead, however, did sustain several cuts to the base of the fingers on the right hand and injured his right thumb.

  • On a State Department Tour of 16 Central and South American nations, Snead played an exhibition match in Brazil. As he prepared to hit from a bunker, a big flightless bird called a rhea spied Snead's trademark Panama hat and went for it. Flailing to save himself and his hat, Snead suffered peck marks to his hands.

  • Snead and then President Eisenhower played a round of golf together. On the 18th hole, Snead said, "Mind if I tell you one thing? Stick out your fanny, Mr. President." He did, and smacked a 220-yard drive that split the fairway.

  • At the Cleveland Open one year, his approach shot flew over the green and headed for the locker room. As it did, a course policeman opened the door to the locker room. Snead's shot finally came to rest in the last stall of the men's toilet. The two-stroke penalty cost him the tournament by one shot.

  • In 1965, Snead headed seven corporations. It is estimated that he made around $200,000.

  • Snead's best year for prize money was 1974 when he collected $55,000. He was 62.