‘Sam – The One and Only Sam Snead’ by Al Barkow

As a boy, Sam Snead – who once held the record for the biggest bonefish ever caught, who shot bears in Alaska, and who could hit a golf ball harder and farther than anybody – learned tailoring skills. He was able to alter the waist and length of his trousers, and turn the frayed collar of a coat.

Sam Snead was a man of many more parts than the public ever knew. Starting with the first chapter, this book provides considerable insight into the many sides of one of the greatest golfers in history. Barkow does a fine job writing about Sam Snead the golfer. But he does an even better one writing about Sam Snead the person.

The record of the player known as “Slammin’ Sammy” is unmatched; no golfer has won more tournaments, although the actual total number is still disputed. The PGA Tour credits him with 81 career wins, reduced from 84. Snead told people that if the PGA Tour kept up changing his victory total, Jack Nicklaus would end up with more than he. Which brings up a long-standing feud between Snead and Joe Dey while Dey was running the USGA. I won’t provide the details here, but this conflict is very interesting.

The book’s layout is done well. It moves through Snead’s childhood and includes many stories about him living near the Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Va., where Sam went on to develop a lifelong connection. It discusses his siblings and parents, and provides background about them that helps to understand Sam.

The middle section covers Snead’s golfing career and features many wonderful glimpses into his personality. He could be rough and crude, but he also had a big heart and was a soft touch (except on the golf course). The final third of the book deals with his private life and marriage. Barkow presents this part of Snead’s life in a way that shows how he coped with the obstacles he encountered along the way.

Snead was neither a saint nor a sinner, just a guy trying to use his talents to become the person and player he wanted to be. The pictures are wonderful and the little stories exceptionally fun to read. I really enjoyed this book and its style. Many thanks to Mr. Barkow for using his writing talents in creating such a fun-to-read biography.

“Sam – The One and Only Sam Snead” by Al Barkow, 176 pages, Sports Media Group, 2005, $35 (hardcover), ISBN 1-58726-181-2

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and the current President of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.