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SAM SNEAD AND THE SERPENT
Gerald Holland
December 05, 1960
The serpent stands for trouble. At home in Virginia, it is the rattler or the copperhead that has pursued Sam since boyhood. To Sam the celebrity, the serpent represents a variety of other pests: elbow benders, people who blow smoke in his face, intruders who break in on him when he's watching a western. This is the first story about the true Sam, a wonder of an athlete and a wonder of a man, whose game keeps getting better
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December 05, 1960

Sam Snead And The Serpent

The serpent stands for trouble. At home in Virginia, it is the rattler or the copperhead that has pursued Sam since boyhood. To Sam the celebrity, the serpent represents a variety of other pests: elbow benders, people who blow smoke in his face, intruders who break in on him when he's watching a western. This is the first story about the true Sam, a wonder of an athlete and a wonder of a man, whose game keeps getting better

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Sam finally got them out of there and turned in about 11. He had a big day to rest up for. The schedule called for him to fly by Northeast to Washington at 8 a.m., play Arnold Palmer at Rockville, Md. at 1 p.m., catch an American Airlines plane for Chicago at 7:10 p.m. and transfer to a Continental Golden Jet for Los Angeles at 10:45 p.m.—almost midnight by the time Sam's watch now showed in Boston.

The match at the Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md. had to be called at the 15th green because of heavy rain. Sam was two strokes up on Arnold. He had plenty of time to make his plane, but it wasn't until we were taking off from Chicago (in another thunderstorm) that I learned the full horror of Sam's last night in Boston.

"I was sound asleep," Sam said, almost tearful with self-pity. "Must have been about 3 o'clock in the mornin'. One of these young fellows from the cocktail party comes in, turns on the light and sets down on the other bed. He'd been elbow bendin' plenty. But that was all right. I asked him what he was bustin' into my room for. He said everybody had to double up because the motel was overcrowded and he'd decided to double up with me. I said, 'All right, then, but for Pete's sake, take the bed there and turn out the light.' He said he'd do that but he'd have a smoke first. And then he starts in, lightin' up one cigarette after another, blowin' smoke in my face, gassin' up the room, gassin' up the room until I couldn't breathe! Finally, I jumped up, tore the blanket off my bed and went out to the big livin' room there and slept on the floor. Tried to sleep on the floor. I hardly slept a wink."

"Sam, you must be completely beat."

"I am beat, beat bad," moaned Sam. "I took me a pill to get to sleep on."

I unbuckled my seat belt and got right up. "Well, lay back, Sam, and let it take hold. You got another big day doing the television films tomorrow."

Sam closed his eyes and lay back in his seat. "Too much," he said. "Too much runnin' around."

I went up forward to the lounge and got talking to Frank Rhodes, a Continental copilot who was deadheading it back west. After a while he invited me to go up to the flight deck to meet the captain. It was a beautiful starlit night and Echo went by as we soared over Nebraska. I told the crew about Sam Snead and they had all seen him play either in person or on television. They agreed he had a certain electric quality that only a handful of athletes have possessed: Ruth, Jones, Tilden, Dempsey, Cobb, Williams—those were the extra-specials who came to mind.

"Well," I said finally, "I guess old Sam is knocking it off good by now. I think I'll go get a little shuteye."

When I got back to the lounge, there was Sam, standing in the aisle in his stocking feet, looking as petulant as a boy who has been ordered to practice his piano lessons.

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