Sam all but broke into a dance. "I feel great! I got a day off and I'm goin' out to Lakeside and play 18, maybe 36, I don't know, with ol' Bob Hope!" Then he took a stance and said, "Here's Hope drivin'." He drew back his arms very slowly and then lashed down with an old washerwoman's swing that was not at all complimentary to his partner for the day. He went whistling off to keep his date.
(Maybe it was this incredible ability of Sam Snead to snap back that had something to do with the tribute Arnold Palmer paid him recently. "He's the greatest golfer who ever lived," said Palmer. "He's got to be. He's been on the circuit for 25 years. Just imagine that. He's playing better now than he ever did. He can do anything a man of 21 can do. He just keeps on learning more and more and he hasn't lost a thing. He could have been an all-star at any sport.")
Not many days later we were back at Sam's home course, the famous Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. One evening we had dinner in the magnificent main dining room. Gary Nixon, Sam's assistant, and some Greenbrier guests were at the table. The Meyer Davis orchestra played softly in the background. Most people dress for dinner at the Greenbrier, but Sam wore a light gray suit and a black knit tie. People kept turning around to look at him.
Aside from Sam's prowess as a golfer, he was worth a second look. He cuts a handsome figure and probably is as well off as a fair share of Greenbrier regulars. His enterprises include a string of Sam Snead Motor Lodges, already in operation or being franchised; Sam Snead Golf Centers with double-decker driving ranges; and a highly profitable golf-cart-rental business. A television company is in the organization stage. Sam is Director of Golf for Country Club Developers, Inc. and is the operator of the pro shops at all seven of the new courses that have been constructed by that new outfit.
Sam obviously doesn't hurt for money. Fred Corcoran, his business manager, has him endorsing everything from hats to headache powders. Sam is working with a collaborator on a new book of instructions. He has a solid, longstanding tie-up with Wilson golf equipment. Sam can pick up $1,500 to $2,500 and more any day he wants to play an exhibition with a big name pro—especially if the big name happens to be Arnold Palmer. Sam makes $2,000 a day for every day's shooting of the Celebrity Golf series on NBC, a venture underwritten by his old friend, Bob Hope. Sam has a piece of the show. He is a partner with his pal (and favorite fishing companion) Ted Williams in a fishing-tackle business. He has an interest in an aquarium in Miami. He can earn up to $30,000 a year as pro at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs and $15,000 as pro at the Boca Raton Club in Florida. People in a position to make a good guess hazard the opinion that Sam's annual income runs from $150,000 to $200,000—including tournament prize money and the sure-fire side bets he wins from well-heeled businessmen all around the country. Sam refers to such golfing partners as "pigeons," and he is always on the alert for such game when he is not otherwise occupied. One day in the men's grill at the Greenbrier a prosperous pigeon kept repeating: "Took me for plenty, the old son of a gun, but it was worth it. Wait'll I tell 'em back home I played with Slammin' Sam!"
Naturally, Sam enjoys certain creature comforts. He loves clothes, and in his wardrobe are 400 shirts, 200 pairs of slacks, 50 hats, 100 sports jackets, 75 pairs of shoes and dozens of business suits and dinner jackets. He owns 25 sets of golf clubs and is always on the lookout for new putters and wedges. He has five automobiles. He owns two Eldorado Cadillacs outright, and General Motors keeps him supplied with three of their other cars. GM asks no testimonials in return; they are content just to have Sam seen driving their cars and thus create the impression among prospective buyers of motor cars that what is good for Sam Snead is good for the country.
At the dinner table Sam was the last to order from the elaborate menu. As the waiter stood patiently by, Sam said, "Last night I had some real good eatin'. I went out in the woods back of my house there in Hot Springs and shot me a couple of nice fat squirrels. Took 'em home and skinned 'em and then parboiled 'em. Fried 'em up with some apple slices, and I tell you there's no better eatin' in this world."
I felt the waiter grasp the back of my chair as if to steady himself. Sam looked at him.
"Bring me," he said, "some blue points, filet mignon, and put Roquefort dressing on the salad."
"Thank you, Mr. Snead," said the waiter, hurrying away.