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“The Education of a Golfer” is an entertaining autobiography of sorts written by Sam Snead (with help from Al Stump) that I’ve been reading to help pass the time this winter. Published in 1962, the book is told through a series of stories that chronicle Snead’s rise from obscure hillbilly to the top of the game. Snead is often depicted as a physical freak with a simple mind who relied on his “God given gifts” to achieve his great accomplishments. This book tell a different story of a shrewd, self aware, and motivated individual who achieved as much with intellect and discipline as with athletic ability.

In a chapter entitled “More tee and fairway troubles” Snead recounts the story of how he acquired his most beloved piece of equipment, a George Izett driver. I’ve transcribed the excerpt below. It contains some juicy equipment tidbits and historical references that I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Just before the firing opened at the Griffith Park course in L.A., Henry Picard walked up and asked, “How are you hitting, Sam? I hear you are bending them halfway to Santa Monica.”

“I’m so wild I’ve about decided to quit the tour and go on home.”

Picard watched me whip out some drives and thought my feet might might be the problem. He claimed I was spinning around while in the hitting zone onto my right toe, instead of moving more laterally into the ball on the inside of my right foot. Toning down foot action didn’t help.

“Let’s look at your driver,” said Henry.

“I’ll admit it doesn’t feel right,” I said, “but it worked for me in Virginia and in Florida and I don’t like to change it.”

“This stick is too whippy for you,” said Henry. “Do you remember the photographer who tried to catch your swing at Hershey last fall?”

Thinking back, I remembered that Lambert Martin, one of the top cameramen of New York World-News, had set up cameras aimed at catching all points of my swing. Martin “stopped” the action until we came to the point where my descending clubhead was 2 feet from the ball, and then all he got was a blur-even with the camera set at 1/1,250th of a second. Martin said it was the first time he’d been unable to stop a whole hitting sequence. Later they timed my clubhead speed at almost 150 mph.

“Your hands are too fast for such a light and swingy club,” declared Henry. “I’ve got an Izett driver in my car that might be the answer for you.”

The Izett was a true-tempered model, stiff shafted, and a regular telephone pole in weight at more than fourteen-and-a-half ounces; the loft was a normal eight degrees and the length – forty three inches – likewise. The shaft carried five ounces of the weight, and that was the great difference. George Izett, a top Philadelphia clubmaker, had built it.

“Try it in play, and if you like it, we’ll make a deal,” offered Picard.

Lighthorse Harry cooper smashed par, the tournament record, and all opposition with a 69-70-69-66–274 to win the marbles at Los Angeles, but in my first West Coast showing the Izett enabled me to shoot 71-71-72-69–283, which was good for sixth place and $400. Bulla cost himself $200 by canceling our deal, for with a 299 score he finished out of the money. One week later, with the hook under fair control, I won the Oakland Open, then the Crosby Invitational, as mentioned in the last chapter. Rain washed out all but one round of the Crosby, so that over five rounds in the two competitions my scores read 69-65-69-67-68.

I’d have paid Picard any part of the purses I’d won – $400 at L.A., $1,200 at Oakland, and $762.50 in the Crosby-for that driver. And Henry had every reason to stick me for plenty, having finished a few shots behind me in the latter two events.

“That’ll cost you just five-fifty,” said Picard, “which is what I paid for the club.”

The act of generosity by the Hershey Hurricane could never be repaid, because that No. 1 wood was the single greatest discovery I ever made in golf and put me on the road to happy times. It proved that with the full coil of my body and the strong forward thrust of the right foot which went with my wrist snap at impact with the ball I naturally accelerated the club faster than I could control any ordinary driver. The increased drag of a heavier, stiffer shaft and the clubhead compensated for my speed. It harnessed me to just the right degree.

The popular story is that I slept with the Picard driver and never let any man swing it is only half true: only the last half of that statement is a fact. It’s also a fact that until two years ago, twenty three years later, I was still pulling it from the bag – at least, what was left of it. Most of my major titles have been won with that big blaster: three P.G.A. championships; the British, Argentine, and Brazilian Opens; three canadian Opens; the All-Americans; the Tam O’Shanter “World”; the Nassau and Panama Opens; the Tournament of Champions – along with three Masters Tournament titles and a string of Ryder Cup wins.

At the close of 1961, my lifetime record stood at 110 tournaments won and about $400,000 collected, which they say is the world record, and I’d estimate that I used the Picard driver while accumulating three-fourths of those totals.

Once, in San Francisco, when my back was turned, a local pro drove off the tee with the club. I all but blasted him off the course when I found out. That’s how I felt about that stick.

When it broke, I fixed it and never turned to another wood.

At Sequoiah, California, years ago, the head flew off, sailed down the fairway, and I let out a howl like a hurt wolf and ran all the way after it while the gallery roared. At St. Paul the club broke off at the binding close to the head and I didn’t hit a satisfactory shot until it was repaired. That five-fifty stick was good for maybe a million drives in every kind of weather, even though as the years went by the club face became eaten out toward the toe and the experts claimed it was finished.

“That’ll be the day,” I told them. New inlays were inserted and it behaved as well as ever. This went on until the inserts composed almost a new face. But, no matter what happened, I never thought of the club as changed. Unlike any club I’ve ever owned, it game me a feeling of confidence just to pick it up.

The exact Wilson Company duplicate of the original which I use today gives results, but in the 1959 Greensboro Open, when I was sniping the ball deep right because of getting my hands too flat, or laid over, at the top of the backswing and then rushing the downswing, I brought the Picard out of retirement. And I played 72 holes without missing a fairway.

Hooking has returned to bother me more than once since 1937, but generally the Picard wood saved me the trouble of changing my whole style in order to counteract the hook. It proved one key point in golf to me: find the driving tool that’s best suited to your size, reach, and swing; then stay with it.

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Hard to imagine somebody using their Burner Superfast 2.0 for much longer than 6 months on tour these days…  Here’s a great shot of George Izett working a persimmon head in the lathe with a tie hanging over the machine.

 

One Response to “Sam Snead and the George Izett Driver”

  1. Avatar of Rayg Rayg says:

    “The Education of a Golfer” was recommended to me from a Golf Pro here in Ct. some years ago. Mr Snead’s personality shines throughout. When I read the comment that he had grown up in an area where the valleys were so narrow that the dogs had to wag their tails up and down… I was hooked !!!
    Pay attention though, the Autobiography is laced with insightful little goodies which just might help your game. And if your fortunate enough to have a library near you that also carries “Sam Snead teaches you his Simple Key Approach to Golf”, check that out too!!!
    Henry Picard seemed to be quite “the guru” in those days…
    This was the same man who gave some very valuable information to Ben Hogan…
    It is apparent that he didn’t charge like the guru’s of today !

    Might be interesting to do a little feature here on Henry Picard. That cat knew his stuff !!!!

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