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The Greenbrier and Sam Snead are a classic resort link to golf's past

The horrific floods that wrecked The Greenbrier Resort and the region around it are a nasty memory now, but a fresh start and revitalization of the area are well under way. Like Old Man River himself, Sam Snead, you can’t keep these West Virginians down long. Snead was the tour legend who exhibited great longevity and was an outstanding competitor well into his senior years. It is appropriate that he was associated with the resilient Greenbrier for decades.

Sam Snead shows a few tips during a Greenbrier clinic.

Sam Snead shows a few tips during a Greenbrier clinic.

Nearly any week on tour is a likely time to celebrate something special the great Slammer achieved in golf, and with this being The Greenbrier Classic week, it's only appropriate to also look back at Sam's remarkable association with "America's Resort." More than 80 years ago in 1936, Snead made his first visit to The Greenbrier and the two were nearly always associated until Snead's death in 2002. Snead memorabilia populates the West Virginia resort, including at two restaurants, Sam Snead's at the Golf Club and Slammin' Sammy's.

Snead was The Greenbrier's golf pro from 1946 until the end of 1974 when the two parted ways because the ageless wonder, at age 62, "wanted more time to play tournament golf and [The Greenbrier] wants a full-time club pro," according to Golf World coverage. He rejoined as The Greenbrier's Golf Pro Emeritus from 1993-2002 (Tom Watson followed from 2005-2015 and Lee Trevino was named GPE in early 2015).

In October 1970, Snead aced the 18th hole of the Old White House Course (now Old White TPC), with a 7-iron covering the 163 yards. At the time it was his 18th career ace and the fourth on that hole, but he had another on it -- his final one -- in 1995. Snead also shot 60 six times on the Old White Course, and he had an easy-to-remember 59 in 1959 on the Greenbrier Course.

An elegant fixture of The Greenbrier is the Spring Festival, which began in 1948 and was later renamed the Sam Snead Festival. It was a star-studded event at its origin, held in late spring. Forty pros played 18 holes Thursday through Sunday, and three amateurs joined each pro on Saturday and Sunday in a pro-am format. Bob Hope, the Duke of Windsor and assorted U.S. senators were featured amateurs in the early days; Ben Hogan, Peter Thomson, Jack Burke Jr., Dow Finsterwald, Doug Ford, Claude Harmon, Henry Picard and Jimmy Demaret some of the pros.

Snead won the event multiple times (and gave clinics at the event as shown in the photo on the home-page link), but in February 1968 the resort announced it was dropping the festival. The announcement said, "Following a thorough study of current and future spring activity schedules at The Greenbrier, we have reluctantly decided to cancel future Sam Snead Festival golf tournaments."

But in a beautiful example of how life and common sense can come full circle, the Sam Snead Festival came back on The Greenbrier schedule as a 36-hole pro-am to honor his legacy. It was restarted in 1994 and he hosted it until 2001. In 2015 it was held June 7-9 and hosted by Nick Faldo, who ran a learning center at the resort and has an affinity for The Slammer, and in 2016 it was held late May/early June.


Cliff Schrock