Hall Won Sudden Death Playoff with Death Itself
Sam Hall, one of tonight’s Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductees, can.
This was in 1995 when the then-61-year-old Hall already had won more than 300 amateur golf tournaments. Hall suffered a heart attack – and that was just for starters. Complications from an aneurysm in his abdomen led to gangrene in his feet. Doctors lopped off four of his toes and approximately a third of his right foot.
He was hospitalized for nearly three months, bedridden for most of five. He lost 37 pounds.
Jerry Weeks, now the Southern Miss golf coach, then the Hattiesburg Country Club pro, remembers visiting a gaunt and much-in-pain Hall in the hospital. “I thought he was going to die,” Weeks says.
“There were some times we didn’t know,” Stan Hall, Sam’s son, says.”The outlook wasn’t all that great.”
“I think now that I might have been the only one around who didn’t believe I was going to die,” Hall says. “Dying never entered my mind.”
Golf did. Hall, then the golf coach at the University of Southern Mississippi, had long been one of Mississippi’s most accomplished amateur players. He had won the state senior championship seven times.
“I just wanted to play golf again,” Hall says. “I remember telling one friend that I was gonna play again and I was gonna win something.
“I said that I might have to become the best putter or best chipper, because I might not be able to hit it, but I was going to win again.”
The heart attack occurred on Aug. 5, 1995. On Christmas Eve that same year, Hall, wearing a bedroom slipper on what was left of his right foot, played the Hattiesburg Country Club.
He shot 82. Santa Claus never delivered a better present.
It didn’t all come so easily. Weeks can remember Hall spending hours at a time down on the practice range, sweating in June and July heat, working to adjust his swing to his feet.
“He can’t drive through the ball like he used to,” Weeks said. “He’s had to quiet his lower body, find his power somewhere else.
“Obviously, he has a lot of talent to be able to do that, but it’s much more than that. He has so much desire and will. Sam takes great pride in the fact that hard work will win out in the long run.”
Hall played with a prosthesis in his right shoe to fill the space where his toes once were. And he played competitively.
In fact, three years after the heart attack, he competed in U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying at the difficult Laurel Country Club. Nineteen men from five states tried to qualify for just one spot.
Sam Hall lapped the field. He won it by three shots, shooting 74. Think about it: Not only was he playing with a physical handicap, he was about to turn 65 and was competing mostly against guys in their early-to-mid 50s.
It was, Hall says in retrospect, his greatest feat in golf — and that’s from a guy who played in six U.S. Senior Opens, six U.S. Senior Amateurs.
“You know,” Sam Hall says, remembering those 89 mostly pain-filled days in a hospital, “if it wasn’t for golf, I’d probably have just given up.”