As just about everyone knows Bobby Jones was a pretty fair golfer. He had a beautiful golfswing and was one of the finest ballstrikers of his era. He was also a fine judge of what constituted good golf and what fine ballstriking was. So it should be no surprise to anyone that when asked who the best ballstriker on the PGA Tour was Bobby Jones replied…..Sam Byrd.
WHAT?!?! Say that again.
Who the hell is Sam Byrd?
OK here is who Sam Byrd was. Sam Byrd played professional baseball for the New York Yankees. Yep Sam Byrd was a Bronx Bomber. He was known to many as “Ruth’s Legs” because he often did Ruth’s running late in games at the tail end of The Babe’s career. Anyway he played pro ball for the Yankees and the Reds from 1929 until 1936 when he retired from pro ball and turned his attention to playing professional golf. Today Sam Byrd is little more than a footnote but if you check the record book you will find that Sam’s the guy who came in 2nd 5 times to Byron Nelson during that famous run in 1945. Sam won 6 PGA Tour Events and 5 other tournaments of note between 1939 and 1945. He lost the 1945 PGA Championship to Nelson 4&3 in the final. So it goes without saying that Sam Byrd was a damned fine player.
The 1945 PGA Championship is interesting, however, because it was after this event that a shy and standoffish and even at that time somewhat reclusive Ben Hogan struck up a conversation with one Sam Byrd. The topic. You guessed it “The best way to hit a golfball.”
What struck Hogan was the simplicity with which Byrd articulated the details of the golfswing. For the next 20 years or so Ben Hogan and Sam Byrd maintained a friendship carried out mainly by phone. I have it on pretty good authority that Mr. Hogan phoned Sam Byrd fairly regularly, mind you not just to talk golf. They were friends. So what was it that Sam Byrd told Ben Hogan in 1945?
Oh come on. You didn’t think I’d just come right out and tell you, did you? We’ll talk some more about Mr. Byrd very soon.
In the mean time enjoy the slo-mo of his swing below.