Tee time and T-bone at Kingswood
Published Saturday September 24th, 2011
Sam Snead's | Restaurant to open at Hanwell facility
By BILL HUNT
Sam Snead's Oak Grill and Tavern hopes to come to the "fore" as one of Fredericton's top restaurants.
The new establishment, located in the executive lodge at Kingswood, features a varied dinner menu, with entrees of steak, chicken, ribs and fish cooked on an oak grill.
And there's enough memorabilia, photos and mementos chronicling the legendary golf career of Sam Snead to make browsing the walls almost as mouth-watering as browsing the menu.
The original Sam Snead - "Slammin' Sammy" as he was known in a career that saw him win 82 PGA Tour events, including three Masters championships - was the Tiger Woods of his time.
He won the original green jacket, awarded for the first time in 1949.
"You're not supposed to take the jacket off the property, but they gave us permission to take it off the property after Dad passed," said Sam Snead Jr.
A replica is on display in the restaurant, maybe the jewel in the collection of artifacts that includes framed photographs, scorecards, golf bags, balls and clubs from an extensive collection maintained by Snead Jr.
"I'm a big collector of golf memorabilia anyway," he said, up from his native Virginia to help oversee the official opening of the chain's only Canadian location and the only one north of Virginia.
A VIP reception will be held Saturday night, with the restaurant opening to the public Tuesday.
Make no mistake though: it's not a typical sports bar. The menu includes filet mignon, strip and ribeye steaks, crab cakes and Memphis-style smoked ribs.
"Most of the entrees are going to be prepared on an oak-fired grill," said Kingswood director of operations Andy Mabie, who first began investigating the business opportunity about 18 months ago.
"It's done with locally cured oak, right here in New Brunswick. It adds a new flavour to it."
Meat and fish are fresh.
"This restaurant will be the most well-managed, consistent food venue in Fredericton," said Snead Jr.
"We have food and beverage people on the road who will come in and keep things consistent and make suggestions and so forth."
The first restaurant opened in 1980 in Hot Springs, Va., near where Snead Sr. was born and Snead Jr. and his brother Terry were raised.
It opened in an old bank across from the Homestead resort.
Sixteen other locations have sprung up since.
Snead Sr. was a man's man, said his son, his caddy and the curator of his memory.
He was a Golden Glove boxer, a champion fisherman, an All-American in football and a wonderful father.
"He was my best friend," said Snead Jr.
"I couldn't imagine anyone being more loyal. He would always take me as his partner in golf. He would never play against me. I never heard my father say a detrimental thing about any of the other players."
In the era of the 1940s and '50s, he and Ben Hogan were arch rivals, a la Jack Nicklaus/Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson.
The two tied for the lead at the Masters in 1954 and played an 18-hole playoff the following Monday.
Bobby Jones, the man who conceived the Masters, called it "the greatest round of golf he had ever witnessed."
"He and (movie star) John Wayne were good friends. John Wayne kind of looked up to him a little bit," Snead Jr. said of his father.
Snead Sr. used to spar with heavyweight champion Joe Louis to entertain wartime troops, and the two would often play nine holes, "because Joe could play a little bit too," said Snead Jr.
But Slammin' Sammy had few equals on the golf course. He was renowned for having the perfect swing - there's photographic evidence in the restaurant - along with a display chronicling the 42 holes-in-one in his career.
Snead Jr. believes he's recorded an ace of his own here.
"We've always done everything at a high level," he said.
"We've never done anything on the cheap ever. We don't ever cheapen my dad's name or put a blemish on it."
While the restaurant salutes one of the game's great golfers and is located at Kingswood, it's not tied to the golf course.
It will be open year-round, employing a staff of 25.