Texas Native Byron Nelson – One of Golf’s Greatest


Byron Nelson was a professional golfer between 1935 to 1946. He competed on the Professional Golfers Association Tour, and he managed to win at a phenomenal rate. He culminated in a beautiful career with 52 professional golf tournaments. Nelson also received the Bob Jones Award, which is the highest award that is given by the United States Golf Association. Besides that, Nelson was also inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and he was also the second recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award. In this article, we are going to know more about the career of Byron Nelson and find out what made him one of the greatest golfer in the world.

Early Years

Byron Nelson was born on February 4, 1912, in Waxahachie, Texas. When he was 11 years old, Nelson’s family moved to Fort Worth. At age 12, Byron Nelson started caddying at the Glen Garden Country Club. In an article on Sports Illustrated, Nelson recalled that caddies were not allowed to play at the club, so he would often practice playing in the dark. He would just put a white handkerchief over the hole so that he can see it in the darkness. However, the club changed its policy and decided to host a caddie tournament where Nelson and another golf great Ben Hogan went against each other. That game started the rivalry between Hogan and Nelson during their teen years and early in their professional careers. However, over the years, Nelson and Hogan gradually grew apart, but they retained mutual respect.

Professional Career

Byron Nelson became a professional golfer in 1932 at the age of 20 years old. Three years after launching his professional career, Nelson managed to record his first pro triumph at the New Jersey Open. During the Master Tournament in 1937, Nelson managed to shoot an opening-round score of 66 and win the event. Nelson set a record during the first round of the Master Tournament in 1937; this said record was never beaten for another 39 years. Byron Nelson managed to add four more major golf championships to his first Master’s victory throughout his career. In 1939, Nelson won the U.S Open; a year later, he won the PGA Championship. In 1942, Nelson once again won the Masters and managed to bag another PGA championship in 1945. Byron Nelson became the first golf player to reach 50 career PGA Tour wins.

However, during these successes, Nelson experienced a blood clotting ailment that made him unsuitable for the military during World War II. Still, during the span of his career from 1935 to 1946, Nelson managed to win a total of 32 tournaments, with an incredible 18 in 1945 alone; this had an 11 in a row PGA record which has never been seriously challenged.

Retirement and Later Life

In 1946, at just the age of 34, Byron Nelson decided to retire from the professional tour to concentrate on being a rancher. However, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Nelson coached and mentored several rising golf talents such as Tom Watson, Ken Venturi, and Marty Fleckman.

In 1968, the Dallas Open was renamed to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic to nod to his greatness. This move made Nelson the first pro golfer to ever have a tournament named after him. Byron Nelson played with several celebrities and other well-known personalities such as Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Roone Arledge, and Lawrence Welk throughout his career. Besides being a professional golf player and a coach, Nelson also became a successful television golf commentator.

On September 26, 2006, Byron Nelson died at the age of 94.

Hall of Fame building at World Golf Village

Indeed, to fully capture the impact of the greatest golf players in terms of their accomplishments, a person must first have a thorough understanding of the history of the game.

It is essential to dig into their history to explore the many challenges and possibilities they encountered that led to their success, especially in the case of Byron Nelson

Some interesting facts about the greatest Texas golfer Byron Nelson

1. Byron Nelson was a caddie at the Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas

Byron Nelson, who liked the revered golfer Ben Hogan, started to love the game of golf as a caddie at the Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. 

At the age of 14, Nelson also defeated Hogan in the Glen Garden caddie tournament.

2. Byron Nelson had the greatest games during the 1945 season

In the 1945 season, Byron Nelson bagged 11 consecutive events and 18 events in total. He also landed second seven times during the same season. 

In 1945, the Texas native golfer set an average scoring record that lasted 55 years when Tiger Woods broke the record in 2000.

Had it not for World War 2, Nelson could have accomplished more.

World War 2

3. Byron Nelson had accomplished more success in his golfing career despite playing in a short period of time

Byron Nelson was considered as one of the golfers that earned so many accomplishments despite a short period.

In 1935, Nelson bagged his first-ever professional golfing game at the New Jersey State Open.  During the next 11 years, Nelson continued to win 52 PGA Tour events and five major championship events.

However, World War 2 hampered his professional golfing events. During the height of his golfing career from 1940 to 1945, only nine major golf championships events were held. He won three of those nine majors.

Following the winning percentage of Nelson during those six years, it could be possible that he would have had eight major championship wins from 1940 and 1945 had the standard four majors been held annually during those years, as cited by Bleacher Report.

If World War 2 did not happen, Nelson would have garnered ten majors and 58 wins before retiring at the early age of 34 as a rancher in Texas. 

His 113 consecutive cuts made were second only to Tiger Woods, accordingly. During his time, only the top-20 golfers in the course were given paychecks. This information clearly showed that Nelson earned a lot from the game, which contributed to the overall success of his golfing career.

Generally speaking, Nelson belonged to the list of golfers who achieved success despite a short playing time.

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