1971: Jack Nicklaus wins the Byron Nelson Classic for the 2nd year in a row

Byron Nelson presenting the trophy to Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus defends his title at the Byron Nelson

By: Claudia Mazzucco

On May 9, 1971, Jack Nicklaus made three consecutive birdies, starting on the 15th hole, to successfully defend his title at the Byron Nelson Classic. Jack had rounds of 69, 71, 68 and 66 for a total of 274, six under par on the Preston Trail Golf Course, in Dallas. He won by two strokes over Frank Beard and Jerry McGee.

It was the 33rd tour victory in Nicklaus’s professional career and pushed his leading money winnings for the season to $131,776. He became the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 1971. Earlier in the year, he won the PGA Championship and, then, the Tournament of Champions two weeks before Dallas.

Fact: Nicklaus’s total record of 73 wins was done in 35 different events, played over 49 courses. His best domination took place in the Masters, PGA Championship and Tournament of Champions. He has won seven multiple-course events and in playoffs he has gone 14-10.

In 1970, Nicklaus needed a birdie on an extra hole to win the Byron Nelson Classic in a sudden-death playoff with Arnold Palmer. The two superstars tied at 274 after 72 holes. The crowd was with Arnie, of course. Its roar was carried across the Red River when he sank a putt on the 72nd to tie Jack. In the first hole, Nicklaus left his approach shot at 18 inches to the pin and tapped in for his victory.  Afterwards, Nicklaus was told that Vice President Spiro Agnew was on the phone with congratulations. But when he picked up the phone, an operator told him Agnew wanted to talk to Palmer.

Nicklaus went on that year to win the Open Championship at the Old Course of Saint Andrews.

A Novel Idea 

In 1971, tournament chairman, J. Frank Holt, was miffed by a Dallas sportswriter’s columns about how the Colonial Tournament attracted pretty women while the Nelson Classis did not. Holt had tickets printed up months ahead of the tournament and began passing them out to every attractive woman he met in Dallas. After the Nelson Classic that year, the same Dallas sportswriter wrote a column on how much the scenery at Preston Trail had improved.

Claudia Mazzucco

Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005

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