Byron Nelson is what makes people hitch when they start to say “Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer ev–well, there’s Byron Nelson . . . ”
Nelson won 11 tournaments in a row in 1945 and 18 in all that year. Some say WWII diminished the competition but his average was 68.3 and as John Feinstein said, “And when you play against the golf course, no one knows there’s a war going on.” No one else has had a lower stroke average in a year in the history of golf.
Nelson also won 52 tournaments and five majors. He truly was a master. Nelson would greet the players at the first tee of the Masters. Tiger Woods walked up to Nelson and said, “The Masters wouldn’t be the Masters without you.”
He mentored golf pros like Tom Watson and his was the voice and teaching stroke that weekend golfers learned from when he worked as a golf announcer and instructor for ABC Sports.
But what is most impressive about Nelson is that he retired from golf at 36 years old. Why? Because he didn’t want to travel anymore and wanted to be with his family. He wanted to play to make enough money to buy the ranch in Texas that he lived on until his death yesterday. He was 94 years old.
Last year, Clint Davis and I went to a missions conference in Ft. Worth and went to a Rangers game one night. Our seats and those of about 100 others in one section were paid for by Byron Nelson. He was a philanthropist and gentleman. A Christian who swept and cleaned the building of the Church of Christ that he attended in Texas.
I’m sure there are many more stories about the good deeds and generosity and wisdom of Byron Nelson that his friends and family could tell and that the public does not know about this great man.
Sports Illustrated commemorated yesterday his 11 in a row.