Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

At 83, Snead Ready to Slam Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

At 83, Snead Ready to Slam Again

Article excerpt

The voice still resonates with the rich sounds of the Virginia hills, the words still pile upon each other in mounds of simple, country wisdom. Listening to Sam Snead talk is a trip back in time, before golfers were millionaires, before clubs were titanium.

Snead was in on the ground floor of golf twice and both times the game benefited enormously from his charm, humor and skills.

As Slammin' Sammy - the long-hitting, self-taught country boy always good for a clever quote - Snead helped the PGA Tour get going in the 1930s. More than 40 years later, Snead won the first Legends of Golf, helping get the Senior PGA Tour started.

Now, two months away from his 84th birthday, Snead has the clubs out again, getting ready for this week's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the only event he still plays.

"I don't play enough golf to keep my game up where I'd like to have it," Snead said Tuesday from the PGA West TPC Stadium Course in La Quinta, Calif. "As you get older, things creep in and you say to yourself, `Where did that come from?'

"It's nice to get here," he said about old age. "But now I have to go downhill and hit rocks and sidewalks to get a 300-yard drive."

Only from the heart of a true champion would come concern that, in his mid 80s, Snead doesn't have his game where he would like it.

He turned pro 62 years ago when the leading money winner, Paul Runyon, earned $6,767. He joined the tour in 1937, winning five tournament titles, including the inaugural Bing Crosby, considered the cornerstone of the original PGA Tour.

In 1978, Snead teamed with Gardner Dickinson to win the first Legends of Golf. By 1980, when Liberty Mutual Group had taken on sponsorship of the Legends, the Senior PGA Tour started with four events and a total purse of $475,000. This year it has more than 40 events with a total purse of more than $34 million.

"It's been the greatest thing that has happened to the senior player," Snead said. When producer Fred Raphael and Jimmy Demaret "started this back a few years ago they thought the guys who can't quite make a cut anymore needed a place to play."

It turned into a lucrative place to play. Last year, five players on the Seniors Tour won more than $1 million and 15 players won more than the $620,126 Snead earned in a 42-year career on the PGA Tour, in which he won a record 81 tournaments - 11 more than Jack Nicklaus. …

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