At the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., Sam Snead, aged 46, was playing the third round of the annual Sam Snead Festival golf tournament. The date was May 16, 1959. Sam has been the home pro at The Greenbrier's two courses since 1936, and it was superbly fitting, therefore, when on that May day a fortnight ago Sam shot the greatest competitive round of golf in the history of the game. It took him just 59 strokes to play the 18 holes. Winning his own festival the next day with a 72-hole total of 259 was an anticlimax.
Snead's magnificent 59 surpassed the official PGA record of 60 (held by Sam and six others) and completely overshadowed the only other competitive 59 on record-posted by Earl Fry in the 1938 Northern California PGA championship at Alameda, but in match play in a round-that Fry officially won at the 14th hole and played out just for the sake of a scoring record.
The day of Snead's great round was streaky with cold and gusty winds, and the fairways were soft from a drenching, all-night rain. Playing with Snead as part of the pro-amateur phase of the event were three amateurs—Bruce Forbes, president of
, who, incidentally, was celebrating his 43rd birthday; Paul Summers, a Washington lawyer and native West Virginian; and Harry Daumit, the Lustre-Creme shampoo founder. Snead played the first 11 holes into a strong headwind. On the 12th tee, with the wind now at his back, he stood four under par. Then, roaring downwind, he played the last seven holes in just 21 strokes, seven under par for that final stretch. Snead's own vivid hole-by-hole description of that fabulous round starts on the opposite page.
ONE 394 yards, par 4
The first hole doglegs to the right and I hit a pretty good drive down the left side which is the best place to be. From a downhill lie I punched an eight-iron, keeping it down into the wind, and making sure I didn't go over. A good shot, nine feet past, and I made the putt.
TWO 150 yards, par 3
Just a straightaway hole into the wind with the pin in the right-hand corner of the green. I played a wind shot, punching a six-iron that had good bite and stopped eight feet to the right of the hole. Needed two putts.
THREE 420 yards, par 4
I hit a pretty near perfect drive here and then a real good four-iron into the heavy wind. The ball bounced up about five feet to the left of the hole and I knocked in the putt for a bird.
FOUR 377 yards, par 4
My drive was hit straightaway and wound up in just perfect shape on the left. Then I punched a six-iron into the wind, just like on No. 2, that had so much stuff on it it stopped, pfft, just like that, four feet to the right. Then I holed that for my three.
FIVE 372 yards, par 4
On all my drives, just like on this hole, I was really trying to get the ball out there as far as I could. Another perfect drive here and then I played an eight-iron right at the hole that I figured would stop and jerk back. But it leaked past 15 feet before biting, and I two-putted.
SIX 298 yards, par 4
I drove directly for the flag going for the green all the way, but the wind pushed it over to the left just short of the bunker. I pitched out of the rough pretty good, but the ball didn't run as much as I thought it would and I had to knock in an 18-footer for the birdie.
SEVEN 430 yards, par 4
Trying to fade my drive around the slight dogleg I pushed it into the rough. I played a five-iron out to the front of the green because the ball will often fly on you coming out of grass and I didn't want it to fly too far. It just came out normal though and I needed two putts from 30 feet short.