Thursday, 05 July 2018 17:22

Slammin’ Sammy Snead

By Joseph Raucci | Sports
Slammin’ Sammy Snead Photo provided

AN APPOINTMENT AT McGREGOR COUNTRY CLUB

THE GREAT SNEAD IS COMING…

It was the summer of 1963. Saratoga Springs was gearing up for the Centennial of its historic racecourse. Many events were planned to make it a season to remember. We are here to look at one of them, a day when one of the greatest golfers of all time, the legendary Sam Snead assaulted McGregor Country Club. Here he would showcase his picture-perfect swing. Add the tremendous power that it generated and a putting finesse that had brought seven major championships to his mythical resume. Surely, he would yawn his way to an easy victory over the local players that were there more to watch his awesome talents than mount any competition. Or would they?

So, let’s go back, fifty-five years ago.

Snead’s appearance was to coincide with the opening week of the race meet. The dark day of racing was Sunday in those bygone days. It made perfect sense to contest it on the first Sunday of that historic season, the date, August 4, 1963. Bud Brophy, Club champion would be pitted against Snead. They were partnered with two other top area players. Minutes from downtown Saratoga, in the town of Wilton, McGregor was awaiting the match.

The course, a par 72, 6731-yard monster was prepped and ready for the day “When David would face Goliath.” Sam Snead was at fifty-one, still a very formidable, top echelon player on the PGA tour. In fact, three months earlier, he had closed to within two strokes of taking his fourth Masters. The winner of his first green jacket, none other than Jack Nicklaus. Make no mistake about it, Snead was still at the top of his magnificent game.

ENTER BUD BROPHY

Let’s look at an area golf legend. A native Saratogian, Bud Brophy was the proprietor of The Inn, a watering hole on Caroline Street. Bud sold the place in the late 1960s. The younger generation knows it as Tin and Lint, a landmark on the “Street of Dreams.” He may have made his living in the bar business, yet it was golf that was his passion. He was at five foot ten and one hundred fifty pounds, built like the great Ben Hogan. He was not a long hitter. It was his fairway to green game that was superb. Along with that, he was equipped with nerves of steel. These qualities would serve him well on his way to eight. You read that right, eight club championships. Along with that, Bud won numerous area tournaments. Needless to say, here was a man that was ready for the challenge that was coming his way in the name of one Samuel Jackson Snead.

THE LEAD UP

The match was to be played by two teams. Bud, as club champ would lead one team, with his partner Jay Jerome, co-owner of McGregor and a quality player. Snead was paired with Harry Larson, a top area golfer who made the team via a one-day playoff over a talented field.

With his ticket stamped, Harry made the fourth spot for the event. The exhibition was played as a best ball match. This meant that the lowest score tallied on each hole by that teams’ member would count towards the final score. Sam Snead was as well known as “Babe” Ruth. He was sports royalty. The owners of McGregor came up with the idea of having Sam brought into town in a Rolls Royce. At that time, Maxie Falleck, proprietor of a well-known Saratoga bakery owned one of the few Rolls in the area. He was asked to greet Sam at Albany Airport, then chauffeur him to the course. Maxie happily obliged. Sam hit town early in the morning.  The time had come.

GAME DAY

As with most of these events, the pro gives the crowd a look at his vast array of shots in a clinic before the match. Snead was no exception. He hit dazzling shots to awe the large crowd in attendance that day. My friend, Jim Brophy, Bud’s son and namesake used these words in an interview that made this article possible. “Snead half buried a golf ball into the ground. He then took a driver out of his bag and proceeded to hit a perfectly straight three-hundred-yard drive.”

The super human Snead had just sent a message to the Brophy-led team, for all to see.

Now it was time to play golf. The tone was set early. Bud got his team off to an early lead when he birdied the par five first hole. The second hole, a par four, was birdied by his partner Jay Jerome. The team was up two after two. Could the impossible happen? Although Snead hit seventeen greens in regulation, his team was never able to close the early gap. He played a nice round. In a four hole stretch on the back nine, he scored four straight birdies. It just wasn’t enough. The upstarts from Saratoga outplayed him when it counted. So good was Brophy that day, he played the last four holes in three under par. On those very same holes “The Slammer’s” very same holes “The Slammer’s” score was three over. Brophy and Jerome had taken the measure of one of the legendary figures in the history of golf. As for Snead, he got back into Maxie’s Rolls and was driven on the road to immortality. Bud Brophy continued to play golf. His name would be atop leaderboards in area tournaments for years to come. He seldom discussed the day he toppled Goliath. It is called class. He didn’t need to.

FINAL REMARK

I would like to thank Jim Brophy for generously giving his time for an interview that was so important to this article. His brother John, a lifelong friend, provided photos of the event. They were given to him by Bud’s wife Gail Purdy. A famous area golfer, she made the cut at the LPGA U.S. Open twice, a remarkable feat. She is the owner of Purdy’s liquor store, and like her husband, an area golf legend.

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