Sam Snead had to beat Jim Turnesa and the US Army to win the PGA Championship!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Sam Snead had to beat Jim Turnesa and the US Army to win the PGA Championship!

Seaview Country Club in Absecon, New Jersey hosted the PGA Championship in the last week of May 1942. The tournament was played on Seaview’s Bay Course back nine, and its nine holes in the pines. At that time only nine holes of the Pines Course had been completed. Local qualifying had been held around the country in the various PGA Sections. Some professionals were exempt as former winners, and some off their recent record on the PGA Tour. One hundred and eleven PGA members who were in the armed services were offered exemptions if “Leave” could be arranged.  

36-hole qualifying began on Monday for the match play ladder. The ladder had been reduced from the usual 64 spots to 32 in order to shorten the tournament one day. Ben Hogan, the leading money winner on the PGA Tour, had hit so many practice balls his wrist was hurting. PGA Tour director Fred Corcoran moved Hogan’s starting time back a few hours so he could receive treatment. 

Harry Cooper led the qualifying with 138 strokes, while Merion Golf Club assistant Sam Byrd and Corporal Jim Turnesa were one stroke back at 139. The players who missed qualifying were paid mileage money from the $7,550 purse.

Turnesa had entered the US Army in June 1941, then released in October due to being more that 28 years old, only to be recalled in January with the country at war. Stationed just 51 miles away at Ft. Dix, Turnesa was given a ten-day furlough to play in the PGA Championship, with one stipulation. He had to donate whatever money he won to a US Army charity.  

With all matches being 36 holes, Sam Snead who was representing the Shawnee Inn & CC in the Poconos, swept through the top of the draw. His most difficult win was a one-up victory over PGA President Ed Dudley in the quarter-final. In the bottom half Jim Turnesa, wearing his army uniform for each round, faced more difficult opposition. Round by round he defeated big names. It was Dutch Harrison in round one, Jug McSpaden one-down in the second round and Hogan by 2&1 in the quarter-final. Now it was on to the semifinals vs. Byron Nelson. At the end of 36 they were deadlocked. Corcoran gave Nelson a ten-minute break to stop in the locker room and settle his stomach. Still, Turnesa won the 37th hole and moved on.

In the final it was the US Army vs. the US Navy. After the tournament Snead was reporting for navy duty. As the tournament progressed more and more soldiers from Ft. Dix had joined Turnesa’s gallery. Most did not know golf but they knew they were rooting for the golfer in the army uniform.  In Turnesa’s match with Nelson, someone had picked up Nelson’s errant tee shot on the 37th hole before he could see for himself if it was out of bounds or not. On the eve of the final, Snead urged PGA President Dudley to do something to control Turnesa’s followers. Snead said “Turnesa hasn’t had a bad lie in the rough all week.” Dudley said “They don’t know you are joining the Navy. They only know they are not pulling for someone not in uniform.” Along with that the marshals were not about to fight Ft. Dix.

1942 Snead & Turnesa TTT

In the final on Sunday May 31 Turnesa held a three-hole advantage over Snead through 23 holes. Then Snead began to whittle away at the deficit. With nine holes to play the contest was even, and then Snead won the next hole. On the par three 12th hole, Snead’s iron shot was headed for the trees only to strike a spectator and end near the green. He won the hole with a par and was now two-up. The match stayed the same through the next four holes. On the par three 17th hole Snead was over the green and Turnesa was on the green. From 50 feet Snead holed his chip shot and the tournament was over. Snead had won his first of seven major titles.

First prize was $1,500 but during the war-years one could take it in a War Bond, for one-third more. Snead chose the $2,000 War Bond. Turnesa took his winnings in a check for $750, which he then turned over to the Army Relief Fund. All profits from the tournament were presented to the Army and Navy Relief Funds.

On Monday Snead reported to the Navy in Washington D.C. Turnesa, now back at Ft. Dix on Monday, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Turnesa would later win the 1952 PGA Championship.

A link to the program book for the 1942 PGA Championship is below.

One thought on “Sam Snead had to beat Jim Turnesa and the US Army to win the PGA Championship!

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  1. I knew about that tournament at Seaview but didn’t know that they played 2 different courses. I have a pic of Snead and Turnesa with the Trophy. Great stuff!

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