Sam Snead drives caused one lady in a gallery at the Quidnessett course outside Providence, R.I. to exclaim as he accidentally brushed by her walking off the tee: "I touched him, I touched him!" Another lady spectator at the Lakewood course in Rockville, Md. breathed as Sam hit an especially long one: "Oh, God love us!"
I sat there on the bar stool, and as the cha-cha by Howard and Betty Harvey concluded to wild applause, I could hear and see Sam Snead act out a story about stalking a certain turkey in the woods near his home. He impersonated the turkey as well as himself in the role of hunter. I'd heard the story (it was mainly a staring-down contest and the turkey had won) and so I let my mind wander back over my travels with Samuel Jackson Snead.
When I had mentioned to Bill Sloane, the piano player, that Sam Snead could be peevish, I wasn't stretching the truth a bit. I have never seen a man who can be quite so peevish and then (refreshed by eight hours' sleep) be so full of beans and good humor that he can't quite contain himself.
Sam was peevish when I first met him in Boston. He had come east from filming some of his Celebrity Golf television shows in Hollywood (he was commuting every week at the time) and the jet flight had not been too comfortable. The plane had set down in Baltimore and, for some mechanical reason, couldn't get going again. Arrival time at Logan International Airport in Boston was scheduled to be a little after 8 a.m. But the plane was more than four hours late.
Sam was fit to be tied. When he appeared in the exit door of the plane he had a black look about him. But by the time he had come down the steps and noticed the newspaper reporters and photographers, he squeezed out a smile. But he pointed to the big plane and said, "Don't let the name of this line get in the pictures. I don't want them to get any free advertisin'." It turned out that Sam hadn't slept a wink (or so he claimed) and the trip had taken almost 12 hours. Typical of Sam, he didn't hold the grudge long. He was flying the same line and joshing with the stewardesses a few weeks later.
But he was peevish, and he swore softly when Wally Wilson, the frenetic press agent for Country Club Developers, Inc. (which was sponsoring Sam's two exhibitions with Arnold Palmer over the weekend), said there would be a press luncheon almost immediately. Sam said he'd have to have a shower first, and that was the cue for Herb Alpert, the managing director of the Logan International Motel, to hustle up and inform Sam that he and Arnold Palmer (due to fly in later) were to share the Gold Key suite, a two-bedroom layout so lavish that a drill team from the
Ed Sullivan Show could maneuver comfortably in the living room alone.
The shower refreshed Sam somewhat, and he was reasonably affable as the press luncheon got under way. He's good at remembering names, and this always makes a hit with the newspaper boys. I drew the seat directly across from Sam and, desperately searching for a topic of conversation, I said, "You must have enjoyed playing the Canada Cup matches in Ireland, Sam. I think it's a wonderful country." Without looking up from the menu Sam said, "Well, you can have it."
(Actually, from all accounts, Sam enjoyed Ireland, and the Irish dearly loved him. Galleries at the Portmarnock course outside Dublin more than once let the leading players tee off in actual competition and stayed behind to watch Sam hit a few practice shots.)
Sam ordered Yankee pot roast. When the waiter brought the order, Sam pushed the potatoes and peas aside. He's watching his waistline while he's making his television series. Somebody down the table asked a sensible question and Sam responded cordially. Then he looked at me and said, "I've got a headache and I'm sick to my stomach."
I don't know what came over me, but I blurted out, "Well, why don't you take some of that headache remedy you're advertising all over television? The announcer claims it goes after a headache five ways or more. Settles the stomach, calms jittery nerves. And you end up the commercial spiel by remarking to the announcer, 'You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!' Why don't you take some of that stuff?"