Byron Nelson

Byron Nelson
Personal Information
BirthFebruary 4, 1912
Waxahachie, Texas
DeathSeptember 26, 2006
Roanoke, Texas
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Nationality United States
Career
Turned Pro1932
Retired1946
Professional wins63 (PGA Tour: 52, Other: 11)
Best Results in Major Championships
Wins: 5
MastersWon (2) 1937, 1942
U.S. OpenWon (1) 1939
British Open5th: 1937
PGA ChampionshipWon (2) 1940, 1945
Awards
PGA Tour
Money Winner
1944, 1945
Vardon Trophy1939


John Byron Nelson, Jr. (February 4 1912September 26 2006) was an American PGA Tour golfer between 1935 and 1946.

He and two other well known golfers of the time, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, were born within 6 months of each other in 1912.[1][2] Although he won many tournaments in the course of his relatively brief career, he is mostly remembered today for having won 11 consecutive tournaments and 18 total tournaments in 1945. He retired officially at the age of 34 to be a rancher, later becoming a commentator and lending his name to the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, the first PGA Tour event to be named for a professional golfer. In 1974, Byron Nelson received the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.[3]

On April 23, 2007 the Northwest Independent School District named their second high school Byron Nelson High School. This is the first high school named in honor of Byron Nelson, and is expected to open in 2009. The school will be located in Trophy Club, Texas, near Nelson's hometown of Roanoke.[4]

He became the second recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, and has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.[3] Nelson received the Congressional Gold Medal shortly after his death in 2006.

Early life and career

Born near Waxahachie, Texas, Byron Nelson was the son of Madge Allen Nelson and John Byron Nelson, Sr. His parents set a precedent for him not only in their long lives — Madge Nelson lived to age 98, and her husband to age 77 — but also in their religious commitment. Madge, who had grown up Baptist, was baptized in a Church of Christ at age 18, and John Byron Sr., raised Presbyterian, was baptized in a Church of Christ soon after meeting Madge. The senior Byron Nelson went on to serve as an elder in the Roanoke Church of Christ, and the younger Byron Nelson was a committed member of that congregation — even performing janitorial services there from time to time long after he became famous — he later placed his membership at the Hilltop Church of Christ in Roanoke from 1989 until 2000 when he moved his membership to the Richland Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Texas in later life.[5]

When Nelson was 11 years old, the family moved to Fort Worth, where he barely survived typhoid fever after losing nearly half his body weight to the disease, which also left him unable to sire children. Soon after his baptism at age 12, he started caddying at Glen Garden Country Club.[5] On his caddying days, Nelson said, "I knew nothing about caddying at first, but it wasn't difficult to learn. The other caddies, though, didn't like to see any new ones, because that might mean they wouldn't get a job sometime."[7] An article on Nelson in Sports Illustrated noted that initially caddies were not permitted to play at the club: "[H]e would often practice in the dark, putting his white handkerchief over the hole so he could find it in the darkness."[8] The club later changed its policy and sponsored the Glen Garden Caddie Tournament, where a 14-year-old Nelson beat fellow caddy and future golf great Ben Hogan by a single stroke after a nine-hole playoff.[5][8]

In 1934, Nelson was working as a golf pro in Texarkana, Texas, when he met future wife Louise Shofner, to whom he was married 50 years before she died in 1985 after two severe strokes.[5]

Championship heyday

After turning professional in 1932, Nelson waited until 1935 to post his first victory at the New Jersey State Open. He followed this up with a win at the Metropolitan Open the following year. He reportedly won this tournament with "$5 in my pocket".[12] Nelson won his first major event at The Masters in 1937, winning by two shots over Ralph Guldahl. During this tournament he shot a first-round 66, which stood as a record as the lowest round in the Masters history until Raymond Floyd had 65 in the 1976 event.[13] Nelson would subsequently win four more major tournaments, the U.S. Open in 1939, the PGA Championship in 1940 and 1945, and a second Masters in 1942. Nelson had a blood disorder that caused his blood to clot four times slower than normal, which kept him out of military service during World War II. It has sometimes mistakenly been reported that he had hemophilia; this is not true.[14]

In his career, Nelson won 52 professional events. Nelson won the Vardon Trophy in 1939.[14] He played on the U.S. Ryder Cup teams in 1937 and 1947 and was non-playing captain of the team in 1965.[14] After 1946, Nelson curtailed his schedule although he continued to make regular appearances at The Masters as a ceremonial starter for many years.[14]

Record-breaking year

In 1945 Nelson enjoyed a record-breaking year, winning 18 tournaments including 11 in a row.[14] Both records are still yet to be beaten. Nelson however lost many chances at major championships during this year, and previous years, because of the war, and only won the 1945 PGA Championship.[14] There has been debate to how impressive these results are, as it was believed to be a weakened tour due to the war.[14] But in reality many of the leading golfers of that time, including Sam Snead and Ben Hogan still played a full or at least part schedule that year.[15] Both Snead and Hogan won multiple times on the tour in 1945.[15] During this year Nelson finished second another 7 times, set a record for the scoring average that was only recently broken (68.33, broken by Tiger Woods in 2000), a record 18 hole score (62), and a record 72-hole score (259, which beat the previous record set by Ben Hogan earlier that year).[15] This year is now known as the greatest single year by a player on the PGA Tour, as Arnold Palmer said: "I don't think that anyone will ever exceed the things that Byron did by winning 11 tournaments in a row in one year."[17] Even more recently, Tiger Woods referred to the year as "one of the greatest years in the history of the sport"[17]

Cut streak

Nelson's record of 113 consecutive cuts made is second only to Tiger Woods' 142. It should be noted that the PGA Tour defines a "cut" as receiving a paycheck, even if an event has no cut per se. In Nelson's era, only the top 20 in a tournament received a check. In reality, Nelson's "113 consecutive cuts made" are representative of his unequaled 113 consecutive top 20 tournament finishes.

Death and legacy

Nelson died Tuesday, September 26, 2006, at the age of 94.[17] According to a family friend, Nelson died at his Roanoke, Texas home around noon. He was survived by Peggy, his wife of nearly 20 years, sister Margaret Ellen Sherman, and brother Charles, a professor emeritus at Abilene Christian University, where Byron Nelson had been a trustee and benefactor. Nelson met his second wife, the former Peggy Simmons, when she volunteered at the Bogie Busters celebrity golf tournament in Dayton, Ohio in 1985.[18]

Nelson was often referred to as "Lord Byron," after the English poet by that name, in recognition of his reputation for gentlemanly conduct, a nickname given him by Atlanta sports journalist O. B. Keeler.[17] Many of his obituaries referenced this reputation.[20][21]

Several of the obituary columns mentioned Nelson's Christian beliefs, and one widely quoted column by PGA.com's Grant Boone drew a direct connection between these beliefs and Nelson's positive reputation: "Byron Nelson wasn't randomly respectable, not generically good. He was a follower of Christ, and his discipleship dictated his decency, demeanor, decision-making, and the way he dealt with people. ... But Nelson never brandished his faith as a weapon, choosing instead to extend an empty and open hand in friendship to all comers. And did they ever come. Wherever the debate over which golfer is the best of all time ends, Byron Nelson was the game's finest man, hands down."[22]

Posthumous honors

State Highway 114 Business through Roanoke is named Byron Nelson Boulevard, in honor of Nelson's residence; the street he lived on was recently changed to Eleven Straight Lane in honor of his 1945 record. In Irving, Texas a street immediately adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort and Club, where the EDS Byron Nelson Championship is played each year, is named Byron Nelson Lane. A street in Southlake, Texas, Byron Nelson Parkway, was named in his honor, as was a street in a residential neighborhood in McAllen, Texas.

On October 16, 2006, President George W. Bush approved H.R. 4902 awarding Byron Nelson the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award that can be bestowed by the Legislative Branch of the United States government. The resolution cites Mr. Nelson's "significant contributions to the game of golf as a player, a teacher, and a commentator." Representative Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) sponsored the resolution, originally proposed March 8, 2006, well before Nelson's death.[23] Senate Resolution 602 memorialized Nelson on September 29, 2006.

PGA Tour wins (52)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Source:

Other wins (11)

  • 1937 Central Pennsylvania Open
  • 1939 Massachusetts Open
  • 1940 Ohio Open
  • 1941 Ohio Open, Seminole Pro-Am
  • 1942 Toledo Open
  • 1943 Kentucky Open
  • 1944 New York Open, Beverly Hills Open
  • 1948 Texas PGA Championship
  • 1955 French Open

Major Championships

Wins (5)

'''Year'''Championship'''54 Holes'''Winning Score'''Margin'''Runners Up
1937The Masters4 shot deficit-5 (66-72-75-70=283)2 strokesRalph Guldahl
1939U.S. Open5 shot deficit+8 (72-73-71-68=284)Playoff 1Craig Wood, Denny Shute
1940PGA ChampionshipN/A1 up1 strokeSam Snead
1942The Masters (2)2 shot lead-6 (68-67-72-73=280)Playoff 2Ben Hogan
1945PGA Championship (2)N/A4 & 34 strokesSam Byrd


Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958
1 Defeated Craig Wood and Denny Shute in 36-hole playoff - Nelson (68-70=138), Wood (68-73=141), Shute (76) (eliminated after first 18)
2 Defeated Ben Hogan in 18-hole playoff - Nelson (69), Hogan (70)

Results timeline

Tournament 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
The MastersDNPT9T13157
U.S. OpenCUTT32CUTT20T51
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNP5DNPDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPQFQFF


Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
The Masters321NTNTNTT7T2T8T8
U.S. OpenT5T17NTNTNTNTT2DNPDNPCUT
The Open ChampionshipNTNTNTNTNTNTDNPDNPDNPDNP
PGA Championship1FSFNTF1QFDNPDNPDNP


Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
The MastersT4T8T24T29T12T1039T16T20WD
U.S. OpenDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPT28DNPDNPDNPDNP
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPT32DNPDNPDNPDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNP


Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966
The MastersCUTT32T33CUTCUTT15CUT
U.S. OpenDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNP
The Open ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNPDNP


NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for Top 10.

See also

Notes and References

1. ^ Kelley, Brent. Biography of golfer Ben Hogan. Retrieved on 2007-05-25.
2. ^ Kelley, Brent. Biography of golfer Sam Snead. Retrieved on 2007-05-25.
3. ^ World Golf Hall of Fame Profile: Byron Nelson. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
4. ^ A Look at Northwest ISD's Second High School. Retrieved on 2007-05-19.
5. ^ Legendary golfer Byron Nelson, a faithful church member, dies at 94, by Bobby Ross, Jr., The Christian Chronicle
6. ^ 2nd Chronicle ref
7. ^ The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.
8. ^ Grace, style and morality: Nelson will be known as 'legend who will never fade', obituary by Art Stricklin, Sports Illustrated, September 26, 2006 (retrieved November 2, 2006)
9. ^ 3rd Chronicle ref
10. ^ 2nd SI obit ref
11. ^ 4th Chronicle ref
12. ^ Kessler, Peter. Golf's great gentleman looks back -- and ahead (interview). Golf Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
13. ^ Townsend, Brad. A course for success (Timeline). The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
14. ^ Nelson, Byron; Palmer, Arnold (1993). How I Played the Game. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 0-8783-3819-5. 
15. ^ About Golf: Biography of Golfer Byron Nelson. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
16. ^ Kelley, Brent. Top 10 Individual Seasons in Men's Golf History. Retrieved on 2007-05-21.
17. ^ Byron Nelson: The Sand Trap. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
18. ^ Nelson obituary in the Dayton Daily News
19. ^ Byron Nelson, Golf Champion, Is Dead at 94, by Richard Goldstein, The New York Times, September 26, 2006 (retrieved November 1, 2006)
20. ^ Legendary memories: Byron Nelson was larger than life, and I was lucky to call him a friend, Jeff Rude, "Our Take" (column), Golf Week
21. ^ Death of Nelson shuts door on greatest era: ‘Lord Byron’ embodied the essence of the game like no one else, by Mike Celizic (column), MSNBC.com, October 3, 2006 (retrieved November 2, 2006)
22. ^ Full Nelson ("Grant Me This" column), Grant Boone, PGA.com, September 27, 2006 (retrieved November 2, 2006)
23. ^ H.R. 4902: Byron Nelson Congressional Gold Medal Act


Barkow, Al (1989), The History of the PGA TOUR, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-26145-4

External links

Preceded by
Gunder Hägg
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
1944, 1945
Succeeded by
Glenn Davis




Persondata
NAMENelson, Byron
ALTERNATIVE NAMESNelson, John Byron Jr.
SHORT DESCRIPTIONProfessional golfer
DATE OF BIRTHFebruary 4, 1912
PLACE OF BIRTHWaxahachie, Texas
DATE OF DEATHSeptember 26, 2006
PLACE OF DEATHRoanoke, Texas
February 4 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

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Waxahachie, Texas

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Motto:
Location of Waxahachie, Texas
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Country United States
State Texas
County Ellis
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Roanoke, Texas

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Country United States
State Texas
County Denton
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 - City  6.
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The Masters

Tournament information
Location Augusta, Georgia, USA
Established 1934
Course(s) Augusta National Golf Club
Par 72
Yardage 7,445
Tour(s) PGA Tour
PGA European Tour
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U.S. Open

Tournament information
Location  United States
Established 1895
Course(s) Torrey Pines (South Course) in 2008
Par 72 in 2008
Yardage 7,607 in 2008
Tour(s) PGA Tour, European Tour
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The Open Championship

Tournament information
Location  United Kingdom
Established 1860
Course(s) Royal Birkdale Golf Club 2008
Par 71 in 2007
Yardage 7,412 in 2007
Tour(s) PGA Tour
European Tour

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PGA Championship

Tournament information
Location  United States
Established 1916
Course(s) Oakland Hills Country Club in 2008
Par 70 in 2007
Yardage 7,131 in 2007
Tour(s) PGA Tour, European Tour
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The Vardon Trophy is awarded annually by the PGA of America to the PGA Tour's leader in scoring average. When the award was first given, in 1937, it was awarded on the basis of a points system. No award was given from 1942–1946 due to World War II.
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William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912 – July 25, 1997) was an American golfer, and is generally considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game.
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Samuel Jackson "Sam" Snead (May 27, 1912 – May 23, 2002) was an American golfer who was one of the top players in the world for most of 4 decades. He and two others of the greatest golfers of all time, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, were born within 6 months of each
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EDS Byron Nelson Championship

Tournament information
Location Irving, Texas
Established 1944
Course(s) Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas
Las Colinas Course
Cottonwood Valley Course
Par 70
Yardage 7,022/6,847

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