Called the golfer "with the sweetest of swings" by ESPN, Samuel Jackson Snead (1912-2002) was born on this day on a farm in Ashwood, West Virginia. He grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Hot Springs, Virginia.
"I learned to play golf barefoot," he said. "It feels good out there, wiggling your toes."
A natural athlete, the self-taught golfer carved an old stick into a club and wacked away at rocks. He was blessed with extra-long arms, supple hands, and double joints.
"Practice puts brains in your muscles," said the man who did 100 daily situps. Snead used music to relieve tension and help his golf swing, admitting that the 1-2-3 waltz beat kept his timing in sync.
"I always enjoyed dancing," he explained. "It helped me learn and value rhythm and grace."
Slammin' Sammy had a sweet swing, a celebration of fluid, balance, and rhythmn. One of the longest hitters of the game, he turned pro in 1934 and scored tour wins for six decades, winning 81 Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Tour tournaments and 13 Senior Tour victories.
"The mark of a great player is in his ability to come back. The great champions have all come back from defeat," he once said.
A charter member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, Snead hit a hole in one with every club in his bag except the putter. He played the Masters tournament for 44 consecutive years and was an honorary starter in 2002, a month before his death.
"I love the competition," he said. "I truly play just as hard for five dollars as I do for 50,000... Competition is what keeps the blood flowing."
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