Strange But True: Like a Duffer

Pro golfers are under great pressure in the big tournaments. One hook or slice, a misplaced divot that stops rolling a ball, or an unexpected cough or sneeze by a watching fan can mean the difference between winning or losing a match. The difference between first and second place can mean several thousand dollars.

One of the coolest of all pro golfers was Sammy Snead. He always seemed relaxed on the course, smiling at friends, chatting with fellow golfers. Even when he was losing, he enjoyed playing. But once, when he was a young man just coming into his own, he blew sky-high.

In 1939, Snead entered the National Open, which was played at the Spring Mill course in Philadelphia. As the players teed off for the final round, three golfers were tied for first place: Denny Shute, Craig Wood and Sammy Snead. Shute and Wood played early, and they finished the course still tied with totals of 284.

Snead was still on the course, about to play the seventeenth hole, when he heard their scores. His total so far was 274. Even if he bogeyed one of the holes and took nine shots for the two of them, he would still finish with 283 and win the tournament.

The good news seemed to make Sammy nervous. One of his shots on the seventeenth hooked, and by the time he sank the putt he had taken five strokes for a bogey. But he could still win if he shot par 4 on the last hole.

It was then that Sammy Snead came unglued. With the National Open title within his grasp, the ordinarily cool, happy-go-lucky young man became just another Sunday hacker. His drive went into the rough. He second shot landed in a trap 125 yards from the green. He blasted out of the trap and the ball rolled into a furrow. Knowing it was all over, Snead began to blast away. His fourth shot landed in another trap. His fifth shot went onto the green 25 feet from the cup. He tapped at the ball and it stopped rolling 8 feet from the hole. He hit the ball again and it rolled past the hole. Finally, on his eight shot, the ball went in. But he had lost long before.

Thirty-five years later Sammy Snead was still a relaxed, cool golfer. But when one of his fans would compliment him on his coolness under pressure, he would grin and reply, “Let me tell you about the National Open back in 1939…”

On May 30, 1922, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs played a doubleheader. In the first game Max Flack played in the outfield for the Cubs and Cliff Heathcote was in the Cardinal outfield. Between games they were traded. And so in the second game, Heathcote played in the Cub outfield, and Flack caught fly balls for the Cardinals.

Much has been written about football’s first intercollegiate game between Princeton and Rutgers. But very little has been said about the first intercollegiate baseball game.

It was played on July 1, 1859. Amherst defeated Williams. The final score was 66-32!

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

Amherst vs. Williams baseball game

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  1. I grew up near a public golf course and when I was in HS a lot of guys thought it was funny to drive past slowly and then lay on the horn when they saw the swing. Okay, I still think it’s a little funny, I giggled typing that. I’m very immature.

    • I think it’s hilarious.
      Once upon a time, I used to bar tend at a country club.  These guys would come in and pick up a cooler with a six pack for the front nine (plus however many drinks from the cart girls they were slugging down), then get another cooler with a six pack (for each golfer by the way) when making the turn to go play the back nine (plus cart drinks), then after their games were over, they would come into the bar to order lunch and would also get buckets full of ice and bottles of beer.  They would then proceed to bitch about how awful the grounds were and how the club needed a better ground crew because it was killing their scores.
      Now, these guys liked me because I poured drinks like only a recovering alcoholic can.  So, I could take certain liberties with them such as when I would occasionally interject a comment while they were bitching about the poor state of the grounds.  “Yup, I’m sure you’re right.  I’m quite certain that the 12 beers and 4 or 5 mixed drinks had nothing to do with your lousy scores.”

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