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.
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.
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.