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June 25, 2001

Sam Snead


BOB STEVENS: I'd like to introduce the 1955 Insurance City Open champion.

SAM SNEAD: Boy, time goes by when you are having fun.

BOB STEVENS: I think if I read the story correctly you eagled the very first hole you played at Wethersfield that one tournament. 2-under after 1.

SAM SNEAD: Then I birdied the second. Well, that got me started.

BOB STEVENS: There you go. You want to tell the story about winning that tournament?

SAM SNEAD: No. That's all I remember. (Laughter.) It's ready.

BOB STEVENS: What is it like to be back with this bunch of former champions? They don't always bring former champions together, maybe at Augusta, but not regular tour events.

SAM SNEAD: I just look at them and shake my head. No more. It's wonderful to see the old boys again and how well they played. Sometimes I think, my gosh, what next. There's nothing left. Golf is the hardest of all sports to play. Almost to the nth degree. Everybody grips the club too tight, and in doing so -- well, you think you have a lot more steam on it, but you don't. You don't get the speed that you do when you are nice and soft. I used to say, when I liked to go 300, maybe a little more and I'd just -- nice and loose, and I said, "Oh, Honey, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to take you nice and slow and easy." But the harder I hit it, well, then the slower I took it back, but then I got up here, then I did another turn and that give me a little bit more down -- and then let her go. But you can't do that all the time. I found that 85 percent I hit more fairway, more greens. I think Tiger will finally come into that, and I think he tries to hit it too hard. But I was doing an exhibition in California, who walks up but Tiger and his dad, six years old. And his dad said, "would you mind if Tiger played a few holes with you?" I said: "Sure, bring him on." I was set aside with Tiger last year at Augusta and we have a room where there are the past champions and the present, and I said, "Tiger, do you remember California?" He didn't say a damn word, but he says, "mm-hmm." That was enough.

Q. Is it special for you to know that you had that kind of an impact on a young six-year-old? You still remember it and he still remembers it?

SAM SNEAD: You know, I was the youngest, of five boys and I tried to kill them all. But that's what you have to do. I mean, when -- we got a little stuff on the line and I'm trying to kill you, and that's the way it is supposed to be. You can't be softy. You've got to -- you get hurt, too, sometimes, but stayed in good shape. Never smoked. Didn't drink. Never had a drink until after 50. There was a friend of mine, he did -- he shot 62 at Pinehurst, and I said, behave yourself now. You go to bed by 10:30, you'll be all right if you just do that. $100,000 the next day for you. And he went out, of course, that night and 80 the next day. I said, "Was it all that ..." And he says: "He just didn't like money." (Laughter.)

Q. Would you talk about what you are most proud of, your most proud accomplishment in the game?

SAM SNEAD: That's kind of hard to say. Well, I played football, baseball, basketball, tennis, track and the whole bit. Of course, I was from a small school and we were playing these other schools that had maybe a thousand people in it, and we only had three substitutes, and one of those was a water boy. He had put a helmet on and you couldn't see his face. You know, with the rest of the guys, the pants came down over his knee, well it was him; is it wasn't over his ankle. And it was funny to see this thing walking up to the guys and with a bucket of water. So, I wanted to do something that I could do myself and not have somebody else doing it for me and I think that helped me an awful lot. I'd kick them in the butt a lot of times in football. Come on, we are making all the tackles back here. We got beat a 100 and something one time. I thought, oh, it's time to go. But, that's the way sports goes, I suppose. Golf is the hardest of all to play. Just think, I found out that doing 85 percent, I hit more fairways, more greens and then I'd go to the par 5s. You could have out of bounds, say, on the right and water on the left. You go in the water and that's -- well, I figured out, lay it up, a hole of that caliber, and I was a good wedge player. I made the four, 64 points. Now that's better than going with a double-bogey and more so than what's the other shots. So saved me here. Saved me there. I see a lot of guys, they kill themselves trying to hit it so hard and try to put it in 20-yard surface with a 2-wood or a 3-wood, and hook it or something like that. Well, I saw one where Tiger Woods hit a duck-and-hook, and it was going out of the bounds, but it hit this man around the neck and it bounced up and his wife caught the ball and set it down and Tiger put it on the green and made the putt and won the tournament. If he had not been hitting this guy, he would have lost. So, that's the way things go. But I think, of course, Tiger is the best player out there now. No question about that.

Q. Do you think he could break your record for most victories on TOUR, lifetime?

SAM SNEAD: If they gave me all of my wins -- they took a lot of tournaments away from me. The PGA are the ones that put it out there that we were playing it and it should count, I think. I don't think you should count going in high school or something like that. You won a tournament, I don't think that should count. Only in a professional.

Q. He's got a ways to go.

SAM SNEAD: Well, that hurt me more, personally, when I won a tournament and they took it away. Then I am -- I know the guy that was responsible for that. He's dead, so no sense in my putting stuff on him.

Q. There's a legendary story about the ninth green which has the two tiers and a huge swale and they say you landed on one of the tiers and didn't want to hit it through the swale so you chipped it from one tier to another. Do you remember that, down at Yale? Rather than put it from one plateau to the other, you went ahead and chipped it, is that true?

SAM SNEAD: Well, it depends. (Laughter.) Which one you could do to make the shot work better, I think. Did I actually chip from one tier to another?

Q. The legend has it that you said, I'm not budging through that swale.

SAM SNEAD: I've chipped through an awful lot of them. I wouldn't know where it was or what it was, but I looked it over and I thought I took it the best way. If you tried to do too many impossible things, it will catch you.

Q. The time you went to the British Open you are on the train and you look over at the field and ask what that is?

SAM SNEAD: It gets better, I think. I don't know whether it was a tram or a train or whatever, but we came by the golf course and I'm looking at it, it's all trodden down. There's sand with a few this. That and the other on it. I look over on the course and I thought, "Gee, they must still be using sheep over here. That has not had a machine on it." I asked the guys if this was a disbanded course and the guy jumped up and said, "I'll have you know, that's St. Andrew's." Yeah, he was really hot. Each time I played that course, I respected it more and more and more. It was something else. But then I like -- on the 10th hole. I drove it three out of four times, and then it was a par 3 and I knocked it on and the next hole, that's -- I don't know, it was close, I guess, 400 yards. But I knocked it on there twice, the last two rounds. And so my driving was very good. I was on it right then. But the greatest shot I think I ever played, I started to go for this big trap out there, hell's bunker and the wind was coming from left-to-right and I hit a good one and it just stayed on line and it didn't -- wind didn't bring it over, and I'm in a piece of that bunker. I hit a 3-iron and it went real high in the bunker over the bunker and the wind grabbed it and it went over, and I'm in a bush up on the limb that's about two feet off the ground and the wind was going. That thing was back and forth, back and forth, and I start to time it, then to hit it. And I hit it and went into a little bunker called the eyes. I thought, "Gee, I can't get there with a sand iron. It will take a 9-iron." And I tell you, you just barely touched it and it went over and I'm ten feet from the hole. That could have cost me the tournament. But after that, well, then everything was rosy. There are times when you have to study pretty good.

Q. Byron Nelson retired this year, going back to Augusta --

SAM SNEAD: Byron had that bad hip. Of course, I told him at one time, I said, "Byron, you can stay on your left foot and you can turn as well as you did when you were on two feet." But he didn't. He'd move off on his right leg, but then he could not get back in time on his left and it was a low hook right into people. Man, they are getting out there like that and they are getting ready to fall down. But then poor devil, I hope he's up there pitching and putting and having a good time. I watched him the last time he played and I guarantee you, I could have read the name on his driver when he hit that ball, and it had two gloves and it just barely made it over the edge of the tee. Well, he tried. There it was, one tough little monkey. I tell you, he was something else.

Q. How much longer for you to go down there and hit that shot? You going to keep doing it?

SAM SNEAD: They asked me, I said sure.

Q. You're still there?

SAM SNEAD: Yeah. I don't know what they will do. Let's just drop it, but I don't think so. They might put Arnie in there next, and I don't know whether Jack will ever do that or not.

Q. Would you talk about your rivalry with Ben Hogan and how the head-to-head competition brought the best out of you?

SAM SNEAD: You know, it was funny. Ben never talked. Anybody that said something he'll turn around and just stare and stare at them. He was a dealer and you could not tell whether he was mad or glad or what. But it was quite funny. We were playing Augusta. The 13th hole, I hit a good drive around a corner there, the par 5, and he hit a little slice on it. He had to play safe, and I walked all the way up and looked at my ball, kind of bent over and took a look. You know, that's to get me thinking, I'd better take a look, I'd better lay up. He walked by and said, "I'm going for it, Ben. I put it on the green." Now, there's one, I tell you, when he -- he never played in a senior tournament. Not one. He started losing his grip on the putter. I didn't know it was that bad until one of his good friends told me, I think I played the next to the last game with Hogan. He said, Ben, he 3-putted 7 and he 3-putted -- hit it three or four times on that one green. Well, that was it. And, of course, I changed my putting every which way. Everybody, I think that was a wrist putter is always -- whenever they hit about 45, it sets in. You know, that goes to the left and then they get up and it's going to the right and you know it when you hit it. I think they are doing the right thing now. They are all putting with their shoulders and arms. See, my hands don't do anything but just hold on to the club. I think that lasts longer. And they do. They are better putters right now than ever before.

Q. Were you guys wrist putters because of the conditions of the greens?

SAM SNEAD: Well, everybody putted wrist at that time. And you know, I played in a tournament and I started gripping the club as tight as I could grip it. 3-putted only one green in 72 holes and I hit the putt exactly where I wanted it then. I could read the grass and all of that. The green was so bad in that it was a slope; I didn't pay any attention hardly to that. I look for the grain, how bad it was. And I putt below the hole, and the grain is going to the right. Hey, I made a lot of putts that the other guys would not even try. Now, I told several of them, I said you've got to putt below, with all of that grain going west -- said, well, I couldn't do that. Well, I won six of them putting below the hole.

Q. You said you wish you could take what you know now and turn back the clock. What is it that you've learned?

SAM SNEAD: I won't change one iota other than my putting. You know, I've putted here and I've putted between my legs, and I think, hey, what was wrong with that. I struck the ball with the head of the club and I've had a regular putter. It wasn't one of those that you put in your belly and one up here and on these other things, just a normal putter. And they call that The Snead, whatever it was. I putted between my legs, like this and now I'm looking straight down the line. I've seen a lot of guys that they look this way and they couldn't get the line and have to go back and sight it again. This, well, you're looking right down. I don't see why that would not be the way to go. I won the tournament, the PGA Senior Championship by 15 shots going like this. I went up the next day and I never saw so many of them -- (Laughter.)

Q. When you are putting now, which way are you putting?

SAM SNEAD: Well, if you're not looking, I might putt that way. Just kidding. I putt side-saddle. And I do some now with this. If I could go back now, I would be doing this, the way they are doing it today.

Q. One of the legends about you is that you could actually bend down over the cup and reach down and pick up the ball from the cup without bending your knees?

SAM SNEAD: Oh, you mean this? (Laughter.) Well, I'm pretty agile. I could kick the top of the door. I was a punter in school. I could kick the football pretty good. You'll notice, the kickers, when they want to go back and just kick the ball and I'll hit his leg up, get it up there well -- it was funny. I was getting on the airplane and I looked up. I was walking down to get my seat and it was a little red sign up at the top and I looked up at it and somebody right behind me, 50. That means 50 dollars I can't keep that day, and I could walk under it and I could tell whether I could or couldn't, and I said, "The game is on." And the guy behind me said, "I've got a camera." And he went around and got my foot right against the top of it up there and people that were on each side there, they were laughing like the devil. Matter of fact, I'm going to have that in some of my pictures and whatnot, anybody want to see how it's done. That's the way it's done.

Q. How old were you when you did that?

SAM SNEAD: It has not been too long ago.

Q. Tell these guys about the club championship you won down in Florida by ten shots and then gave the trophy back.

SAM SNEAD: Well, I'm playing in my area there and he played with Ed Tudwaller (ph) and two other guys and I came in and they were going to have the championship and I went in and the guy, I said, "Hey, I'm one of the guys." I said, "Why can't I play in the tournament"? Well, these other guys are practicing. And he says, "You sure can." This one guy had these colors up there and he is chewing me to the rags, I tell you. He says, "Can you ever believe that guys on the Tour are going to play on the golf course where there's nobody over there that can break 80?" Of course, Ed could play pretty well. A lot of guys could play it well. Oh, he had people up there every day. Every day, and he was chewing me and finally I won by, two, 12 shots. Now we're going to have the prize money and all of them got up and Ed, he did this and that and the other and then he called me up. I said , "Well," I said, "you know, I know I was getting cut up upstairs." They were saying every kind of thing you can think of, can you believe this and that and whatnot. And I said, "Would you please call Ed back and give him the trophy?" Everybody turned around and looked at this guy and he went right around the table.

Q. How about the last time you the 18th at St. Andrews last year?

SAM SNEAD: Well, I tried to be foolish, tried to drive the green because, you know, we got the railroad tracker right along there. What the heck, I'm leading by four. You know, I had four caddies. Well, when I went over there -- inaudible -- want you to go play in the British Open, I think you could win. Well, I go over there and it's 101:1 that that I would win. Well, a guy knew a woman that had a lot of money and he went to her and he said, "Hey, would you like to make a lot money quick? Well, bet on Snead." Well, sir, I had this guy caddying for me and he had a vest. He kept that little snotty rag in one of those little pockets. He'd wipe my ball and club and I said I might get a slider with this one. Well, a fellow that was a writer in London came to me and said, "I want you to take old Scotty. I've been here, I've been here for a week, played every day; he's not missed me one club." Well, I had to qualify. I know the caddy I had was up to that. So, I paid him triple and I said, "Look, I've got to have another caddy." I've got to play the new course, which I had never seen. And a lot of times, you know, you have two bad holes and you've misjudged it and then you're not in the tournament. I knew then something was wrong. I came to the par 3 hole and I said, "What do you think, Scotty? "A 5-iron, I think it is." (Speaking with Scottish accent.) And I said. "That's no 5-iron." And if you don't take what they say, they drop your bag. But I know he's not going to drop my bag right then. Then I hit a an 8-iron five feet from the hole. I tried -- I was going to test him one more time. I said in the par 5, I hit a good drive and I said, "what do you think here, Scotty? "3-iron." I hit the 3-iron, I know, 220, and 20 yards short. I looked at him and I said, "What's going on here?" The guy in the gallery said: "Snead, Scotty is trying to bugger you. " Well, that was the end of Scotty. (Laughter.) That night, they caught him and some of the other boys in the bunker and they took them all and put them in jail, and he didn't show up the next day. Now, get this -- a smart guy. Now I had -- I walked it off myself, the Old Courses, and I came in and I said, here is a pound to eat on. He said, "Snead, pound a day just isn't enough." I said, "I pay you by the day. I'm just getting you something to eat on." He says, "It isn't enough. You see that road over there, you get on it and just keep traveling." So now I got to port (inaudible) and I told him, I said, "Sonny, I don't want you to say one word to me. Don't tell me the wind is blowing, something is happening, just don't say income. Just keep my clubs clean and the ball clean and we'll get along okay." Now, when I came to the last hole, well, I have -- up 4. So now I took a wedge and he says: "Mr. Snead, could I please have -- your ball. I've never caddied for a champion all my life. I'll treasure this forever." Well, I gave him the ball. Next day I came down and a fellow I think had been in there all night and he said to me, "Mr. Snead, would you please autograph your ball? I paid your caddy 50 dollars." I said, well that little definitely. So that's the way things go. You've got to watch what you're doing and whatnot. I've had that happen to me several times.

Q. You played a lot of golf with Julius Boros?

SAM SNEAD: Well, he was a very calm fellow. A real nice guy. He could just go along and have a good time. That's about it. You know, he'd come to me and say, "Hey, Blue, who we got?" Well, when he won the U.S. Open -- he forgot I was Sam then. Boy, he's got his own guys. But he was a good player.

Q. I just recently had a great dinner at your restaurant down in Myrtle Beach. Any plans on expanding your restaurant?

SAM SNEAD: Oh, yeah. Since that, I think we'll do, oh, 25 restaurants into this summer. My son and his wife is going over to Hawaii, Pearl Harbor. There's a golf course right there. They want -- my son, to come on, bring one in there. Well, I was in the Navy and I have a lot of pictures especially with Joe Lewis. He came down and played this little course there in San Diego and they called me the next day. He says, how about playing over in the Muni course, Balboa Park? I said, all right. I shot 62. He says, "Hey, man nobody going to beat you." He had about four guys just hung on his tail, man. They were killing him. I said, "Joe, you can't play 75. You cannot play a round of golf, I don't think." I knew what kind of swing he had and you play golf with a man a couple times and you can just about tell what's there.

Q. How come Julius Boros calls you Blue?

SAM SNEAD: He says, "Hey, Blue, who we got?" When he won the Open, boy, he had his own stuff then. No more Blues around.

Q. Did he call everybody Blue?


Q. Why did he call you Blue?

SAM SNEAD: I don't know. Like I called him Moose.

Q. What did it mean to game when Charlie Sifford won here at Hartford, the first African American to win a PGA event?

SAM SNEAD: You know what, I was sitting at the table with him last night and I've known Charlie a long, long time. A good player. Still is a good player. And he's short; is he wasn't a long hitter. But he is good around and on the green. Well, that's what it takes. You know, there are three clubs: Putter, driver, wedge. If you can master those three, you can win. You try it sometime. Just practice those three clubs.

Q. Do you remember the ones you won or do you remember the ones you lost or the great shots that you hit or the shots that cost you tournaments, which ones do you remember the most?

SAM SNEAD: Well, actually, I tried to put it away. If it was something bad, I wanted to get away from that. That's happened; is that's gone. So no sense -- if I shot 69 the last round, I would have won seven U.S. Opens. So, there it is. And it looked like the first time I played in 1937, and I learned a lot about that, and I had some bad bounces into something straight left. Like I didn't know that -- this guy was in front of me. I didn't know who was in there, and that was when you don't know what was leading or who was leading or anything like that. I came to the last hole and my ball went straight down the fairway and it hit a -- I don't know what it was in the fairway -- went over into the edge of the rough, but there was no rough; it was on sand. So from that, I know that if you don't catch it real good with a wood, it will duck over. Well, I thought I needed a birdie in order to have any chance. Oh, well, it ran over and it went in this bunker. Now I can still knock it on the green with a 9-iron. I hit it and it hit the very tip of the trap, went straight up in the air and raced right back down and see the lip is about that big, right in the top of that lip, so I had this foot down in the bunker and this one -- I was doing the spread eagle or whatever, and like this, you see. Now, I aimed 40 yards to the right. I know it's going to pull, but it pulls and then it took a big jump, went in the bunker and now I've got to stand outside the bunker, which is over three feet below my feet. And that was it. I've got it just on the edge of the green, but I've not to put it from here to the back room and I knocked it past. I said, the heck with it, and I didn't -- I didn't give a dag-gone and missed that little putt. But it was all gone then.

BOB STEVENS: There were many more good ones than bad ones, certainly. We appreciate you joining us at this collection of champions from the ICO and the Greater Hartford Open. Thank you for spending some time with us and we'll see you out in the course later on. See you at Augusta next spring.

SAM SNEAD: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

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