Born in the same year, 1912, as Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, Sam Snead ranks as one of the game’s greats. He did not quite copy Hogan in winning The Open in only one visit but he played only once in his prime, winning at St Andrews in the first post-war Open in 1946.
He had played once before at Carnoustie in 1937 when he had travelled over as part of the US Ryder Cup team. This time his equipment company, Wilson, asked him to go but even collecting the £150 first prize meant he lost money on the trip so did not return to defend the title.
On train arriving into St Andrews he thought the Old Course was an “old abandoned kinda place” but soon mastered it. Starting the last round tied for the lead, a 75 in strong winds was good enough for a four-stroke victory over Bobby Locke and Johnny Bulla.
It was the second of seven Major wins, including three Masters and three PGA Championships, but he never won the US Open, finishing runner-up four times. Between 1935 and 1962, he won 82 PGA Tour titles, one of the few records Tiger Woods has yet to eclipse.
Snead hailed from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, learning to play the game barefoot and using a club whittled from the branch of a maple tree. His swing was a thing of beauty, so smooth and graceful and yet extremely powerful.
Baseball great Ted Williams said of Slammin’ Sam: “Everybody who ever saw him swing a golf club knew they had seen something to remember.” His putting was another matter, however. He tried various styles, including a croquet version which was banned. He continued to play fine golf late into life, finishing third in the 1974 PGA Championship at the age of 62.