1951: Sam Snead wins his third PGA Championship at Oakmont Country Club

Sam Snead

Sam Snead wins his 3rd PGA Championship

On this day, In 1951 Sam Snead won the match play championship, 7 & 6 over Walter Burkemo during the 33rd PGA Championship.  It was the first time the PGA Championship had returned to a previous venue, in Oakmont, who hosted the 1922 PGA Championship won by Gene Sarazen.  Snead broke his own record as the oldest man to claim the title at age thirty-nine.

On the road to the final, Snead defeated Jack Burke Jr. in a tight quarterfinal match that ended 2 & 1. He then moved on to Charles Bassler, who was a friend of Snead but that didn’t help him much in the match…he lost it handily 9 & 8.  Then Snead moved onto Walter Burkemo, a WWII veteran, two-time purple heart recipient, and Battle of the Bulge survivor.  He showed that he was a fighter, but lacked the finesse & experience Snead held.  During the final, Snead got off to a terrific start by carding an eagle 3 on the opening par 5 at Oakmont.  Burkemo returned that with a birdie but then unfortunately ran into a bogey barrage.  He collected 4 bogeys and 1 double over the next eight holes compared to Snead’s single bogey.

Fact: The match play format at the PGA Championship in 1951 called for 12 rounds (216 holes) in seven days (That is so much golf)

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Snead continued his steady ways on the back nine collecting eight straight pars until a bogey on 18.  Burkemo showed some promised coming back with three birdies on the back nine.  Over those first 18 holes, Snead was even while Burkemo shot a +4, 76.  Snead opened up the next eighteen with another bang, nabbing birdies at both one and two.  Snead parred out the rest of the way, meanwhile Burkemo was trading birdies and bogeys, fighting to stay in it.  It ended after 30 holes at 7 & 6.   Slammin’ Sam’s share was $3,500 and while Burkemo received $1,500.  Burkemo was outmatched in 1951 but would go on to win in 1953 when the PGA Championship was held at Birmingham Country Club.

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