Happy Birthday to the great Lord Byron Nelson
One of the true legends of professional golf, Byron Nelson etched out a career unlike anyone who played the game before or anyone who has played since. While his awe-inspiring accomplishments in the game of golf are widely revered, Mr. Nelson was perhaps best known as a true gentleman of the game. His kindness and dedication to his community won the respect and admiration of his peers, present-day players and fans of all ages.
In 1945, Nelson accomplished an incredible winning streak that has not been challenged to this day and will likely stand forever. He finished that year with 18 victories, including 11 straight, and established a record for the lowest scoring average (68.33), which remained untouched for 55 years.
During his relatively brief professional career, Mr. Nelson had 54 career victories, including the 1939 U.S. Open, the 1937 and 1942 Masters, and the 1940 and 1945 PGA Championships.
There is a reason why he was the first professional golfer to have a PGA TOUR tournament named in his honor. Mr. Nelson won 54 career victories, including winning two Masters (1937 and 1942), two PGA Championships (1940 and 1945), and the U.S. Open (1939). He is one of only two golfers to be named “Male Athlete of the Year” twice by the Associated Press, and the World Golf Hall of Fame honored Mr. Nelson in 2004 by featuring an exhibit entitled “Byron Nelson: A Champion… A Gentleman.”
Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan
By: Mark Baron
Hogan and Nelson learned the game at the same time as caddies at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1927 they competed against one another in the Club Caddie Championship. Nelson sank a long putt on the final hole to edge Hogan by one shot. Nelson reminisced about that tournament: “I was 13 when I first started playing at Glen Garden. Ben and I were 15 when we competed for the Caddie Championship. I won a five iron and Ben won a two iron. Since he already had a two and I had a five, we switched.”
Their head-to-head battles continued throughout their careers. In the 1940 Texas Open, they were tied for the lead at the end of regulation. In a radio interview after that round Hogan said: “Byron’s got a good game, but it’d be a lot better if he’d practice. He’s too lazy to practice.” That quote may have motivated Byron as he won the play-off by one stroke.
In the 1942 Masters the two were tied for the lead at the end of regulation. Nelson won again, and said he was so nervous the evening before that he couldn’t sleep and threw up the next morning. There was so much interest in this playoff that many of the other players stayed in Augusta to watch the playoff.
Nelson later said: “It seems as if I played better against Ben on the average than I did against anybody else. I tried harder against him, because I knew I had to.”
Nelson also said about Hogan: “Ben’s a great friend of mine, and he, in my book, is the greatest golfer that ever lived. There’s been some good ones, but he is really a dedicated – he was a dedicated man, and he accomplished what he started out to do.” They competed against each other throughout their careers; each can claim significant victories over the other. But through it all their friendship lasted until the end of their lives.