1950 & 1958 - Sam Snead Home
Professional Golfer – 82 PGA wins
I was born in East Peoria, Ill July 2nd, 1944 and raised in Pekin, Ill - a town of 30,000 close to Peoria, Ill. Some time in the early 5Os Sam Snead came to Peoria, Ill to play an exhibition. My mom and dad and my brothers and I went up to Peoria to see him. I must have been around 6 years old. I really don't remember much except having to wiggle through the crowd to watch him tee off on the first hole.
Some years later around 1958 my dad said that Sam was coming to Pekin Country Club to play an exhibition and that my older brother Jack was going to caddy for him and me and my younger brother Jerry were to watch the Pro Shop. Pekin Country Club was a nine hole course at which my dad had become greenskeeper and head professional in 1946 when we moved from East Peoria when I was two years old.
I was a bit jealous that Jack would get to caddy for Sam. I was to watch the first 9 holes and my younger brother Jerry the last 9 holes. It was amazing to see how far Sam could hit the ball. I had never seen anyone hit drives so close to the greens as he did on our course. My dad was playing with Sam.
As they got to the fifth hole a small crowd had gathered on the the 8th tee of Parkview, the public golf course across the railroad tracks. As I perused the crowd I could see Mike Gianessi standing there. He had just become the youngest ever to win the Tazewell County championship when he won at the age of seventeen. The fifth hole at PCC was about a 140 yard downhill par three. Sam probably hit a wedge to within 2 or 3 feet. My dad then hit it just outside of Sam and they both birdied the hole.
Hole number 7 was a par five which bordered the PCHS football stadium. I had never seen anyone hit it in two. As Sam got ready to hit his second shot on the par five he seemed to be confused and was asking my brother where the green was. My brother showed him and he lined up and hit a perfect shot straight out of bounds over the fence and onto the PCHS football stadium property to the right of #7 fairway.
He seemed to think that was where he wanted to hit it as he started walking after the ball. I just stood there knowing he had to come back and hit another. Finally my brother called to him and told him he had hit it out of bounds. He seemed irritated to me. He said something like "I asked you where the green was!" He had misunderstood my brother and it cost him a two stroke penalty.
He hit the next one on the green. I thought my dad would make up two strokes on Sam as he was 10' off the green, pin high, 40' from the pin in two where he could get a birdie and Sam was on in four probably looking at a six. But dad fluffed the chip shot and wound up with a par so he only made up one stroke on Sam. Sam wound up breaking the course record anyway shooting 64 or so. I was so discouraged after the seventh hole that I went up to relieve my younger brother at the Pro Shop early and let him go watch the rest of the front nine and the back nine.
Later I heard that as Sam drove up to PCC and got a look at the course he made a comment about the course looking like a cow pasture. At the time that hurt my feelings because my dad was greenskeeper and I had lived on the course all my life and it was my home. We didn't have sprinklers in the fairways so if it didn't rain the grass would turn brown. Later when I learned Sam's history of how he grew up swinging a hickory stick in a cow pasture I realized he probably felt right at home.
Jack contacted Sam in 94 as the head of the Agronomy department at Virginia Tech refreshing Sam's memory of his 58 trip to PCC and Sam offered to build a golf course for VT as part of his “Sam Snead Trail” but the University had just bought a golf course and the deal fell through.
I met a friend of Sam's in Naples, Florida in the late 90s who still played golf with Sam who lived on the east coast of Florida at the time. I told him my memories of Sam's visit to PCC in 58 and he relayed it to Sam. I'm sure he got a kick out of it. Maybe he named his dog after me - ha ha! When Sam died I saw on TV his dog was named "Mike".