It’s not often you get a chance to stare down arguably the greatest golfer of all time and win a major championship. J.C. Snead did just that at the 1995 Ford Senior Players Championship, using a birdie on the first playoff hole to fend off Jack Nicklaus and claim the title. Nicklaus had made an eagle on the 71st hole of the tournament and just missed a putt on No. 18 that would have won the championship in regulation.
That was one of 12 professional victories for Snead, who joins his uncle, Sam Snead, in the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame. The 76-year-old- J.C. grew up in Hot Springs in western Virginia. Certainly, Snead drew inspiration from his legendary uncle. But the most important influence in his life might have been his old coach, Paul Siple, who recently passed away.
“He was the coach, and later principal, of just about everything … football, basketball, baseball … at our high school, Valley High or Bath County High,” J.C. said in an interview with Virginia Golfer magazine. “All of us respected him so much. If he pointed at a tree over there and said for you to run into it head first, we’d have run into the tree without asking any questions to why.”
Snead, who spent time as a professional baseball player in the Washington Senators’ system before committing to golf full time, won eight times on the PGA Tour and secured two runner-up finishes in majors. He took second at the 1973 Masters and at the 1978 U.S. Open. Snead was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.