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Sam Snead, a Home-made Golf
Club, and a Spiritual Parable

Sam Snead

by Dennis Pollock

When I was around 15 I became a caddy in order to make some extra spending money. At first I had no particular interest in golf, but soon fell in love with the game. I found golf to be the most maddening sport I'd ever played. You hit so many mediocre to bad shots, you will be ready to give up the game, and then you hit a beautiful drive down the middle of the fairway or a sizzling iron to the heart of the green and think you will soon be playing at a championship level, which of course, never happens!

As I do with everything that I am passionate about, I did some research, wanting to learn as many tips from the pros as possible. In my reading I came across a book by Sam Snead which contained a story I have never forgotten, and which illustrates the beauty of what it means to be an instrument in the hands of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bet

In Snead's day betting on a round of golf was a common practice – even by the pros. Once he had an ordinary golfer, a plump Cuban named Tomeu, come up to him wanting to bet. Of course they both knew this man could never beat Snead in a straight match, so he asked for "strokes," which would be deducted from his total score at the end. Snead obliged the man and gave him one stroke per hole, or eighteen total strokes. By the end of the round, Snead had beaten him easily and pocketed a nice amount of cash for his trouble.

But Tomeu was determined to try again. Instead of accepting his loss, he told Snead, "Hunting season on – I beat you yet." Snead gave him a few more strokes than before and still beat him. Snead felt bad about taking advantage of this man who was obviously a far better businessman than a golfer and said, "Come on, Tommy. Let's quit." But the indomitable Cuban was determined to win a bet from the professional and replied, "No, still hunting season." Snead then played him using only a three wood – even for putting. By this point he was starting to hope the man would beat him, as he didn't need the money and felt bad for the desperate man. But using only the one club, he was still unbeatable and shot a 78 for eighteen holes – far better than the Cuban.

Instrument in the Master's Hands

When Tomeu refused to give up, Snead wanted to help the poor guy out, and went into the woods and cut off a branch from a maple tree. Using a hatchet and pocket knife he carved a crude clubhead at the fat part of the branch and offered to play Tomeu using only the branch and a pitching wedge. He had used such homemade golf clubs as a boy when he could not afford the real thing. Just to make sure the stick / club was as pitiful as it looked Tomeu tried a few swings with it and couldn't get the ball in the air at all. Now he was sure he would win. "Game on," he shouted. "Hunting season getting hot now."

"Slammin Sammy"

Sam Snead wrote: "Much as I wanted to lose, that swamp maple worked as well for me as it had when I was a kid. Using it for tee and fairway shots, chipping and putting with the wedge, I came in with a 76 – beating Tomeu about as badly as ever." Tomeu had had enough. "Hunting season closed for good!' he yelled, and went home to Cuba.

I wasn't a follower of Jesus Christ when I read that book, but once I gave my life to Jesus, I realized what a perfect illustration the story is. The tree branch was not the key to Snead's low score. It had no magic in  it. Snead did not afterwards take it to a golf club manufacturer and suggest that they duplicate it, and start selling it to golfers everywhere. Until it had been cut off the tree it was utterly unfit for service on the golf course. And even after being cut and carved, it was still crude and far from perfect as an instrument to propel a tiny golf ball from tee to green. But somehow in Snead's hands, that stick worked exceedingly well. The key was the golfer – not the "golf club"!

So it is with all those who would do service for the Master. Until Jesus pulls us from the world and saves us we are totally unfit for any good thing. And even after we are saved and He starts His work in our lives we are still pretty rough. We are far from ideal instruments in His hands. Yet somehow that doesn't seem to matter so much. Jesus is such an expert in making use of flawed instruments, He can use people like you and me.

Let us offer ourselves to Jesus as living sacrifices. He does not require perfection. He does not insist upon extreme talent. He has always made pretty good use of imperfect instruments.

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