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The Mystery of the Greatest Golfer of All Time

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posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 03:58 PM
I wrote this article for my now defunct blog. About a hometown legend.

Sam Snead won 134 golf tournaments during his long and illustrious career. Eighty-four victories came on the PGA Tour, including 3 Masters, 3 PGA Championships, and a British Open. He finished second in the U.S. Open four times, and quite naturally is a member of the PGA Hall of Fame. So, when asked by The Book of Lists (1977) to name his top ten golfers of all time, Mr. Snead seemed the perfect candidate for the task. When the editors received the list, however, Snead only listed nine golfers. The number one spot was left blank. Here is that list reprinted:

  1. *** ******
  2. Jack Nicklaus
  3. Ben Hogan
  4. Byron Nelson
  5. Arnold Palmer
  6. Bobby Jones
  7. Walter Hagen
  8. Gene Sarazan
  9. Billy Casper
  10. Gary Player

What was Snead thinking when he decided to leave the number one spot blank? When asked why, one of Snead's managers wrote back that Snead wanted to start with the second spot "inasmuch as he fears that if he lists someone as the number one greatest golfer of all time, he could make a lot of enemies." It's easy to interpret this comment as tongue-in-cheek and infer that Snead wanted to name himself number one. That would be a reasonable assumption. However, I submit that there is a more nefarious undertone to the manager's comment. Indeed, another potential candidate for the number one spot emerges when you do a little research into golf and the PGA during that time. Needless to say, he is not Tiger Woods.

Moe Norman was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1929. He was known by many nicknames including "Pipeline Moe," because he hit the ball so straight. Later in life, he was often called "The Unknown Legend," for reasons that will become clear shortly. Moe was a golf prodigy, and more than that. Moe was a unique and gifted individual.

In 50 years, Moe Norman had 17 holes in one, nine double eagles, won more than 50 tournaments and set more than 30 course records. Not the farthest hitter. Not the greatest trick-shot artist or putter — putting bored him. Norman played competitive golf more than 50 years, and witnesses say he played 11 of those years — that's about 230,000 golf shots — without hitting a ball out of bounds.

But Norman played only briefly on the PGA Tour. He suffered from extreme shyness, and once hid in the bushes when his name was called to accept the championship trophy in a tournament which he won. Many people believe he was actually borderline autistic, maybe even a savant.

"Eccentric" doesn't begin to describe Norman's life. He often showed up for golf tournaments wearing terribly mismatched outfits. He played extremely fast, sometimes not even bothering to read a putt before making his strokes on the green. He was a trick shot artist on the driving range, but he sometimes took those tricks out onto the course with him - hitting his tee shots off Coke bottles, for example, during tournament play. He spoke very fast and often repeated phrases, and he never interacted well with galleries or strangers.

Autism was poorly understood back then and organizers and Tour officials thought Moe was disrespecting the game. They accused him of being irreverent of golf's traditions, and eventually drove him back to Canada where he felt more comfortable. And he continued to win, snagging 7 straight Canadian Seniors PGA Championships from 1979 - 1985, and again in 1987. He never did go back to the PGA, and died in 2004 of congestive heart failure.

What did the greats think about Moe Norman? Sam Snead and Lee Trevino openly said Moe was the best striker of a golf ball in the game. Lee said, "I don't know any player, ever, strike a golf ball like Moe Norman, as far as hitting it solid, knowing where it is going and knowing what he wants to do with the ball. Moe Norman is a genius when it comes to playing the game of golf." One famous story of Snead playing with Norman goes like this:

Norman and Sam Snead were playing an exhibition. Both players needed about 250 yards to clear a stream. Snead laid up, then watched Norman prepare to go for it. "You need to lay up, Moe," Snead told Norman, "you can't carry that creek." Norman replied, "I'm aiming for the bridge." And after his laser-straight shot rolled right across the bridge, over the hazard, Snead didn't try telling Norman again how to play a shot.

Even Tiger Woods had this to say about Norman: only two golfers in history "owned their swing." Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Ben Hogan believed straight shots were an accident. After watching Moe hit many straight shots in a row, Hogan told Norman, "Just keep hitting those accidents, kid."

Did Snead want to put Moe Norman's name in the number one spot on his list? Maybe he did. He may have felt to do so would draw the ire of the golfing establishment, who always regarded Moe as an outcast; undesirable. Only Sam Snead knows for sure.

[edit on 8-12-2009 by TheComte]

posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 04:12 PM
while i dont realy see the conspiracy in all of this, it must have been awesome to watch this man play. A regular Happy Gilmore of his day. Minus all of the ranting and raveing.


posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 04:20 PM
reply to post by MessOnTheFED!

Maybe not much conspiracy but more of a mystery of who did Sam Snead think to himself was the best golfer.

Definitely not as much of a stretch as most of the threads in this forum anyway.

posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 04:32 PM
reply to post by TheComte

Yeah MN is def regarded as one of the best ballstrikers of all time, for sure. Although I could not place him at #1 just because of historic records, although I did not know about his off the course problems.

Ive seen a lot of PGA/Nationwide tour play and I can say all these guys are incredidble. We used to have nationwide tour players stay at our house when the tour stopped in South Dakota where I used to live and even the lowly guys on that tour could blow your mind.

Besides all that I have been inside the ropes with tiger at bay hill on sunday 2 years ago (where he threw the hat down on the green after he won) and I would say he is the best just for his mental game alone - it cannot be beat. I promise.

posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 04:40 PM
Nice read. I never heard of the guy before either. I have heard recent talk of Sam Snead being called the greatest golfer of all time. Which is kindof strange to me, because you rarely ever hear his name.

posted on Dec, 8 2009 @ 04:41 PM
very interesting, i have never heard of moe norman but i will certainly be looking up more information on him. he sounds like he was a great player. not in it for fame or capital but just to enjoy the game.

I have no insight into why the number one spot was left blank but i just wanted to thank you for sharing this legend

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 04:34 PM

Originally posted by Gimpychaos
I have no insight into why the number one spot was left blank but i just wanted to thank you for sharing this legend

You're welcome. Thanks for reading and all your replies.

posted on Apr, 21 2014 @ 02:44 PM
a reply to: TheComte

Wow, never heard of Moe Norman before, and now I'll research and learn. Thank you.

I was looking at search because I was going to do a thread about Jack Nicklaus, and still will, but will definitely link this thread to it. What a great story.

Moe Norman Wikipedia page:

Apparently he didn't do well in the PGA, in 25 tournaments he only finished in the top ten once, and didn't win any, but then he left the PGA after some idiot officials took him aside and complained about him. After he left he won 50 tournaments in Canada. From the wiki page it sounds like there is a possible film being planned about his life.

Here he is just a couple of years before he died, hitting the ball like a machine over and over and over again, with supreme self-confidence that he would not hit a bad shot. It wasn't even in his reality to hit a bad shot.

And another Norman video analyzing his swing (as an older guy. At about 6:20 it gets into his swing as a younger man):

edit on 21-4-2014 by Aleister because: (no reason given)

edit on 21-4-2014 by Aleister because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 5 2014 @ 10:10 PM
a reply to: Aleister

You're welcome, and thank you for reading and being interested in this hometown legend. I used to work with a guy whose dad golfed with Moe and I heard a lot of stories about him. I was never that much into golf, more hockey and baseball, but Moe was, and still is, a legend around my neighbourhood.

posted on Aug, 5 2014 @ 11:30 PM
If I am not mistaken it was Snead that destroyed Moe's PGA career. If I recall he suggested he needed to practice before a tournament and he did so, too much, blistering his hands and making it impossible for him to play. Things went downhill from their. Most of his wins were in Canada.

posted on Aug, 5 2014 @ 11:35 PM
I heard a story about Moe Norman at a golf course one day while I was having lunch. He was at the range warming up for a tournament with Jack, Anrie, and a few other big names. While he was warming up all those guys stopped hitting balls and watch Moe swing away.

His swing was so much different than anyone had seen at the time and almost always hit it a perfect straight shot. While he didn't have the competitive grit all the other golf greats have, the fact he won at the pro level and his albatross levels says a lot about his game. He truly won with raw talent alone.

posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 05:46 PM

originally posted by: crankyoldman
If I am not mistaken it was Snead that destroyed Moe's PGA career. If I recall he suggested he needed to practice before a tournament and he did so, too much, blistering his hands and making it impossible for him to play. Things went downhill from their. Most of his wins were in Canada.

This is true. Snead was Norman's hero, and when Snead offered his advice Norman took it so seriously he indeed wrecked his chances in the '56 US Masters. The next day he shot a 78 and was so embarrassed/disgusted that he quit the tournament and headed back to Canada.

He won the 1955 and 1956 Canadian Amateur Championship and this earned him an invite to the 1956 US Masters from Bobby Jones. He went out and shot a seventy-five on day one. After this he went, as many pros would, to the range to hit some balls. There he met his hero Sam Snead and was offered advice from him. He took the advice and hit ball after ball after ball trying to ingrain these pointers and be set for Friday’s round. He hit so many balls that he could barely grip the club the next day. His hands were torn to shreds and he carded a seventy-eight then left Augusta. He played the same tournament the year after and never played another major.
edit on 7-8-2014 by TheComte because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 07:34 PM
I would have loved to watch this guy play

posted on Aug, 7 2014 @ 07:43 PM
thanks for the story, I am just a mild golf fan... mainly because todays pro's seem so sterile its just not fun to watch.

I used to watch when I was younger and seeing those older players work the crowd and strike the ball so well it was fun for me to follow.

I enjoyed it thanks again.

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