VIENNA, W.Va. - The last time someone dominated the West Virginia Open like David Bradshaw, it was a fellow named Slammin' Sammy Snead.Pretty good company.Bradshaw, from the tiny Jefferson County town of Bakerton, captured his seventh State Open crown in the last 10 years on Friday at the par-72 Parkersburg Country Club course. The only man to win the event more often was Snead, the legendary PGA golfer and former pro at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.Snead took the State Open championship 17 times in a stretch of 37 years, winning his first in 1936 and his last in 1973 at age 61.He only "came home'' to play in the Open 20 times, the final one coming in 1979 at Williams Country Club in Weirton. The rest of the time he was tearing up the PGA Tour, claiming a record 82 titles, including seven majors.Certainly, it's hard to compare the two golfers from vastly different eras, but there they are together atop the state's all-time list - each the most dominant figure of his generation (if you can figure out Snead's generation, that is)."You can't really compare Dave to Sam - he's the incomparable, you know,'' said Ken Tackett, executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association."But [Bradshaw] is out there on the tour. Christian Brand is out there on the tour. Now it's mini-tours, and they're trying to make the cuts, but it's very similar. They're still West Virginia guys that are out there trying to figure out their way, find their way in golf. And they come back and play in the State Open. It's part of their routine, just like Mr. Snead did.''The late Snead is the only one to have won four Open crowns in a row - doing it twice, from 1970-73 and previously, from 1957-61 (there was no tournament held in 1959). Snead also captured three in a row twice - exactly 30 years apart (1936-38, 1966-68).
Bradshaw (2009-11) and Harold Payne (1986-88) are the only others to make it to three straight."[My name] isn't going to be mentioned next to his for [PGA] Tour starts, that's for sure,'' Bradshaw said, grinning. "I guess it's awesome because Sam happened to be from here. If he were from North Carolina, he probably would have won that 17 times. But he happened to be from here, and it's awesome for the state of West Virginia, and it's awesome to have my name next to him."When I play in the Open, my goal is to win, but my goal is to play on the PGA Tour - just flat. I want to play on Tour, I want to win on Tour. That's where I want to be.''So what would the ultra-competitive Snead think of the 30-year-old Bradshaw - or perhaps any golfer - bold enough to start chasing his efforts in the record books?
"What would he think of me?'' Bradshaw said. "He would wonder, 'Why are you not playing on the Tour?' He probably would."I don't know - it was a different era. Back then, he was playing in this and winning the Masters in the same year. I mean, it's really hard to say [but] I'd love to watch him play.''
Tackett acknowledged Snead's aggressive temperament, and floated a theory about how Snead would see Bradshaw."He was very confident in himself,'' Tackett said of Snead, "and in how he stood. You might get an off-color joke and, 'Well, he's pretty good, but he's still got 10 to go' - something like that.''Bill Campbell, 90, the longtime amateur golfer from Huntington and a friend of Snead, first met the Slammer at age 14. Campbell said the two were "very close'' and even eulogized Snead at his 2002 funeral.Campbell admitted that most of the time he saw Snead compete, it came in events where Snead walked away with the big trophy."I had the pure pleasure to watch him,'' Campbell said Friday from his home in Lewisburg, "and he was always the same - and I only saw him in winning situations. He was so long and so straight - the most phenomenal player of anybody pro or amateur in this state.''Snead would sometimes get the reputation of being a sore loser, something that Campbell contests to this day. And Campbell had a pretty good look at one of those supposed occasions 60 years ago.
In the 1953 State Open, oddly enough also at Parkersburg Country Club, Campbell earned a four-stroke victory over Snead - one of just three Opens Snead entered in which he didn't win."I did beat him in the 1953 State Open,'' Campbell said, "which was a novelty because he, of course, was a far better player. I played awful well, and even won the driving contest. I was plain fortunate to have four good rounds."He got blasted by the press. Sam played right in front of me and when I won, he was in a [golf] cart. They thought that was bad sportsmanship. He wrote me a note later in the week and said he was running off to an exhibition in Canada and had to get to Charleston to catch an airplane. People misunderstood, and I didn't hear about the controversy until 15, 20 years ago. . . . He's been badly treated by people misunderstanding, and that still sticks out in my memory."Sam was super coming back to these [State Open] championships, and he won most everything he played in West Virginia.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.