Play it again, Sam. Equipment manufacturers and others in the golf industry are fond of referring to their sport as "the game of a lifetime." Their best unpaid advertisement is Samuel Jackson Snead, age 68 and still a winner as a touring professional.
This fall Sam Snead, fittingly, won the $100,000 Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am at the home of American tournament golf, Newport Country Club in Rhode Island.He captured the new senior event by a stroke over former Masters champion Bob Goalby and by more than that over such imposing rookie seniors as Don January and Gene Littler, then denied rumors that he played in the first US Open there in 1895. "I caddied," he kidded.
When Snead holed his 15-foot birdie putt on the last green, it gave him a 67 for the day, which meant he had shot his age or better every year since he turned 60, won in six different decades, and posted 165 professional victories overall! There has never been a record like it for longevity and sheer breadth of accomplishment.
The colorful legend of Sam Snead just keeps rolling along like Old Man River, and players 30 and 40 years his junior regard him with undisguised awe.
Tour pro Tom Kite was recently doing his bit to add to the legend, telling about the time he played a practice round with Snead and Bobby Cole at Augusta National before the Masters, ans Sam was losing a friendly match with Cole. There is nothing Sam likes less than losing on the golf course, unless maybe being photographed without his omnipresent straw hat on.
At the tee of the par-5 13th hole, Sam cunningly suggested to Cole, a big-hitting youngster, that he cut the corner of the dogleg. "When I was your age," Sam cooed, "I used to just hit it over those trees and have me a little middle-iron left to the green."
Cole succumbed to Sam's cajolery, and blasted a mighty shot that climbed and carried . . . and struck the top of a tree and dropped into the creek. How, he wanted to know, had Sam ever managed to bring off that shot.
"Son," drawled Sam, "when I was your age those trees were only thism high."
Of such stuff are legends made, not to mention Snead's record of 84 tour victories -- far more than anyone else has achieved -- plus numerous other first-place finishes in tournaments not part of the regular PGA circuit.