Age has helped create headlines on the PGA Tour the last few weeks. At 21 years and 9 months, Jordan Spieth was the second youngest winner of the Masters. He was also the second golfer 21 or younger in the last 100 years to win a major wire-to-wire and the second to have three tour wins before turning 22 since World War II. On the opposite end of the longevity scale, when 65-year-old Tom Watson shot a 71 in the first round of the Masters, he become the oldest player to break par in the tournament. A week later he made the cut at the RBC Heritage.
As impressive as the last feat was, it did not break a record however. Rather, it pointed us to the undisputed champion of ageless golf, Sam Snead. He is the oldest to make a tour cut: 67 years, 2 months, 21 days at the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic. He is also the oldest to finish in the top 10 in a PGA Tour event (63-3-4, 1975 B.C. Open), oldest to make the cut in a major (67-2-7, 1979 PGA) and oldest to finish in the top 10 in a major (62-2-15, 1974 PGA).
This month also marks the golden anniversary of Snead's other significant-age record: oldest winner of a PGA Tour event. It was 50 years ago (April 1-4) that Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open for the eighth time in his illustrious career. Slammin' Sammy was 52 years, 10 months, 8 days old when he finished rounds of 68-69-68-68—273 at Sedgefield Country Club to win by five over three players. It was the same margin of victory Snead had in his first GGO victory in 1938. New York Times golf writer Lincoln A. Werden began his game story, "Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open for the eighth time today and every senior golfer smiled."
The 1965 GGO was the 25th time Snead had played in the event, and as part of "Sam Snead Week," a banquet was held in his honor to mark the occasion. A sellout crowd of 800 attended, including TV-show host Ed Sullivan and golf promoter Fred Corcoran. Among the gifts given to Snead were a lifetime pass for free hamburgers and a hunting rifle for the outdoorsman (see below). In his remarks, Snead said, "I don't expect to win, but the boys had better watch out."
Played the week before Jack Nicklaus would set a then-Masters record of 271 and win by nine, the GGO was well-stocked with a strong field that included Billy Casper, Tony Lema, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Charlie Sifford, Dow Finsterwald, Dave Marr and Doug Ford, making the victory all the more impressive. Nicklaus took the week off to practice at Augusta, strategy that had an obvious payoff.
When asked if he thought anyone could duplicate the success he'd had at Greensboro, it was vintage Snead who applied the needle: "You know, I don't think these youngsters are ready yet."