Paul Runyan was already a major champion, having won the 1934 PGA Championship, and he was a highly accomplished player, having won 26 times previous to this tournament. But he seemed to be winding down as a contender, and in fact won only twice more after this tournament.
But Runyan did win this tournament, much to Snead's lifelong chagrin. Runyan was small of stature and it has been suggested that he was the shortest driver of all the great players in golf's history. His nickname was "Little Poison," because he got so much out of his small-ball game. Snead, on the other hand, was a strapping young man who boomed the ball - they didn't call him Slammin' Sam for nothing.
Yet Runyan dominated the championship match, beating Snead 8 and 7. And for the rest of his life, he needled Snead about it every chance he got. And Snead was easily needled by Runyan. There are quite a few stories told of times Runyan and Snead were later together at events or functions, and Runyan reminding Snead how badly he had beaten the Slammer - and of Snead reacting badly to the teasing. Which is probably why Runyan kept doing it.
Runyan reached the final with wins over Levi Lynch, Tony Manero, Ray Mangrum, Horton Smith and Henry Picard. On Snead's path to the final, he beat Frank Champ, Teri Johnson, Felix Serafin, Jim Foulis and Jimmy Hines.
Denny Shute entered the 1938 PGA Championship as the 2-time defending champion. But his bid for three straight wins ended in the third round with a 2-and-1 loss to Hines.
The most dominating victory of the tournament was Byron Nelson's third-round win over Harry Bassler, in which Nelson won eight of the first nine holes en route to the 11 and 10 victory. But Nelson lost his next match, in the quarterfinals to Hines.
1938 PGA Championship Scores
Results from the 1938 PGA Championship golf tournament played at Shawnee Country Club in Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania:
Championship Match (36 holes)
Paul Runyan def. Sam Snead, 8 and 7
Semifinals (36 holes)
Paul Runyan def. Henry Picard, 4 and 3
Sam Snead def. Jimmy Hines, 1-up
Quarterfinals (36 holes)
Paul Runyan def. Horton Smith, 4 and 3
Henry Picard def. Gene Sarazen, 3 and 2
Sam Snead def. Jim Foulis, 8 and 7
Jimmy Hines def. Byron Nelson, 2 and 1
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