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STILL GOING STRONG

85

Golf: Sam Snead still has one of game's smoothest swings. Just this month he shot a 73.

June 29, 1997|DAVID DROSCHAK | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even at 85, Sam Snead has one of the smoothest golf swings around and the eyes to go with it.

He bolted from his chair on several occasions last week prior to a dinner honoring past champions of the PGA Club Professional Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., explaining swing planes, stances, grips, why Tiger Woods has struggled some recently and why Tom Lehman pulled his approach shot on No. 17 into the water, costing him the U.S. Open title two weeks ago.

Snead was also watching Tom Kite hit his 3-wood on the practice tee a week prior to the Masters this year and noticed the 47-year-old collapsing his leg. Snead, nearly twice Kite's age, stepped in to give the leading career money winner a free lesson.

"I saw his leg twitch and I said, 'I bet this is what has been happening to Tom for quite some time now,"' Snead recalled. "When you get older you become more tense and you lose a certain amount of elasticity that you need.

"I said, 'Tom, would you try something. I said just relax as much as you can. Take that club and go hit that ball.' "

Kite began hitting the ball straight down the middle of the driving range.

"Same swing, but two different actions," Snead said. "You know he thanked me three times before he got off the tee . . . but most pros will not give another pro credit for helping them out. I don't know why. You tell me why."

Kite finished second to Woods a week later at the Masters thanks to Snead's help.

To say Snead lives and breathes the game of golf each passing minute would be an understatement. He is golf's national treasure, having won a remarkable 184 tournaments.

Snead was the first pro to shoot his age when he carded a 67 at the 1979 Quad Cities Open. At that time no one had heard of such a feat and PGA officials headed off to do some research.

Before they could confirm that Snead was indeed the first person to perform the feat on the PGA Tour, he shot a 66.

Matter of fact, just last weekend he shot a 73 at The Greenbrier resort. Snead was mad, saying he three-putted several times.

During his day he often drove more than 300 yards, and with today's equipment, still averages around 250 yards off the tee.

Snead doesn't get to play nearly as much golf as he would like, saying there aren't many pigeons around anymore, referring to his dead friends.

"I'll go down and hit a few balls but there's nobody to play with anymore. I help people out a little bit but they don't want to play with me," he said.

"I'm at the stage right now where I can start playing, I've found a few flaws that have crept in," Snead added.

Snead was joking, of course, saying he doesn't have a desire to lace up the golf shoes for one more tournament, even if it is on the Senior PGA Tour.

"You see, my game is not that sharp," he said.

When reminded he shot a 73 this week, Snead responded: "A 73, that ain't going to buy you (anything). You aren't going to do anything with a 73. I watch."

Most of Snead's time these days is spent with his 14-year-old Golden Retriever Meister, who wakes his master each morning at 6 a.m. and who Snead calls the best ball fetcher this side of the Mississippi River.

Meister rides along with Snead in his golf cart and doesn't let his master lose too many balls in the woods.

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