The Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead connection with Tim
My lifelong teacher has always been Art Kraft. We’ve always been very close friends to the extent that anything Art thought would help me achieve my dreams, he was all for. That included seeking advice from others on occasion. After several years on Tour I sought the help of Gardner Dickinson. It has always been understood on the PGA Tour that Ben Hogan taught only two players; Gardner Dickinson, and Ken Venturi. I worked with Gardner for the next five years along with Art of course. Gardner taught me many fundamentals that Mr. Hogan had taught him, as well as how he managed the course during a round. Gardner shared very valuable information with me, enabling me to progress more rapidly. Good course-management is essential to playing great golf. Two of my all-time favorites Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin were the consummate course managers in my opinion. Someone may beat them on occasion but they seldom if ever beat themselves. Hogan was the same way and Gardner taught it to me.
Early in my career I befriended JC Snead and we played countless practice-rounds together. He would help me and show me things that his Uncle Sam Snead had taught him. One day while visiting JC at his Virginia farm he asked me if I’d like to play golf with Sam, so I jumped at the chance. JC was injured so it was just Sam, his dog and I. The dog rode in the cart the whole way so it was rather a tight fit but we had a blast. It was a day in my life that I’ll never forget. It would blossom into what would become a twenty-plus year friendship where Sam would continually share his amazing knowledge of the game with me. Many times in my career I’ve heard people say, “Sam Snead couldn’t teach.” I will promise you he could! For instance one year at the Masters I saw Sam at lunch and he asked, “How are you hitting it son?” My reply was “Not the way I want to Sam.” He said, “Go on out to the range and I’ll be there shortly.” Sam had the range attendant bring him a chair and he sat down and began watching me hit balls. By the second ball he said, “Son all that’s the matter is your timing is off!” So believe it or not he proceeded to sing to me for the next hour and a half as I practiced. Sam explained that the golf swing was like a waltz and not rock and roll! Every shot Sam would sing to me in the cadence in a smooth waltz. Sam was brilliant enough to know thaton the eve of the Masters was not the time to make a major change in my swing. Thinking of Sam’s tip on rhythm, not only enabled me to play solidly that week but also many tournaments thereafter. I have so many fond memories of Sam and the many hours he spent helping me. Whether I drove to south Florida to Sam’s winter home or us getting together at a tournament, he would always take time to help me. To this day I’ve never seen a more beautiful and rhythmical swing than that of Sam Snead. The many things I learned from him I will never forget.
Thanks Sam, I miss you!
Let me start with saying Byron Nelson was one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. As a young man my father bought me a number of books on the golf-swing enabling me to gain an intricate knowledge of the mechanics of the golf-swing at a young age. I read and re-read, “Shape your Swing the Modern Way” by Byron Nelson, to the point of being able to quote from it. I developed my golf-swing at an early age based on this book. As a PGA Tour player meeting Byron for the first time you can imagine the questions I had for him! We would eat lunch together or just talk in the locker room, all the while I’d be picking his brain for knowledge and learning from his wisdom. The first time he watched me hit balls I’ll never forget when he said, “I love your leg-drive Tim, don’t ever change it.” To which I turned around smiling at him and said “Byron you ought to like it, I copied you!” He just smiled. Byron was famous for his long lateral leg-drive on the downswing as well as his kind and humble nature. Each year while at the PGA Tour tournament named in his honor, I would talk with him extensively trying to gain more knowledge from his amazing mind. Byron was so kind in helping me and sharing his knowledge with me for more than ten years. He was good friends with Sam Snead and knew that Sam also helped me. Whenever Sam’s name came up there was a tremendous amount of mutual respect shared between them. As you probably know the golf ball hitting-machine that’s been used for years in golf equipment-testing is named ‘Iron Byron’. It was named after Byron because of his ability to repeat his swing, ball after ball. Byron was amazing, both as a player and a gentleman. Thanks Byron for sharing your knowledge with me and putting so much back into our great game.
I’ve been blessed with the good fortune to have worked with these amazing men throughout my career. Although I never met Ben Hogan, his student Gardner Dickinson, whom he taught, worked with me. Then there was Sam and Byron whom I had the good fortune of working with for many years. Their combined knowledge was truly astounding. Can anyone else in the world make this claim? I don’t think so. I have been very blessed.