Byron Nelson Dies at Age 94

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Byron Nelson's mechanics were so perfect that the U.S. Golf Association nicknamed its robotic swing device the 'Iron Byron.' He was such a Masters icon that Augusta National named a bridge after him in 1958, then a few years ago added a statue of him, too.
And the man known as 'Lord Byron' was so beloved in golf he became the first player after whom a PGA Tour stop was named.
Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson was known as much for his kindness as for his winning.
Yet what will forever define the story of the courtly Texan with the elegant stroke and personality to match always comes back to 1945, when Nelson completed the greatest year in the history of the game: 18 wins, and a mesmerizing 11 of those in a row.
'The Streak' is a record that no golfer has ever approached. Many believe no one ever will.
Nelson died Tuesday at 94, the end of a life spanning eras from hickory shafts and meager prize money to titanium heads and multimillionaires.
His wife, Peggy Nelson, told family friend Angela Enright that her husband appeared fine as she left their Roanoke home for Bible study Tuesday morning.
'I'm so proud of you,' he told her, something he often said about her church involvement, Enright said. When she returned, Peggy Nelson found her husband on the back porch, which faces the woodworking shop where he spent much of his free time.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office said he died of natural causes.
Arnold Palmer called Nelson 'one of the greatest players who ever lived.'
'I don't think that anyone will ever exceed the things that Byron did by winning 11 tournaments in a row in one year,' Palmer said in a statement.
The closest any player has come to Nelson's streak is six, first by Ben Hogan in 1948. When Tiger Woods reached that number in 1999-2000, Nelson was typically gracious when putting his own mark into perspective.
'Anytime you make a record stand for 55 years, why, you've done pretty good,' he told The Associated Press.
Nelson won 18 tournaments in 1945, also a record for a calendar year. He captured 31 of 54 tournaments in 1944-45, and won a total of 52 events, including five majors: the Masters in 1937 and '42, the U.S. Open in 1939 and the PGA Championship in 1940 and '45.
Then, at age 34, he retired after the 1946 season to spend more time on his Texas ranch.
'When I was playing regularly, I had a goal,' Nelson recalled years later. 'I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow. It gave me incentive.'
Nelson's long, fluid swing is considered the model of the modern way to strike a golf ball. In 1968, he was the first player to have a PGA Tour event named for him, an honor that remained his alone until the former Bay Hill Invitational, scheduled for March, was renamed the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
'We have lost a giant in the game ... someone who elevated the game in every way: as a player, an ambassador and a gentleman,' said Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion and winner of Nelson's tournament in 1983. 'Whoever came up with `Lord Byron,' they got it exactly right.'
Nelson's connections helped make his event the No. 1 fundraiser for charity on the PGA Tour -- more than $94 million since the tournament's inception, including $6.3 million this year. The U.S. House recently voted to award Nelson a Congressional Gold Medal for philanthropy; the legislation, Congress' highest award, is pending in the Senate.
'Our players, young and old, looked to Byron as the consummate role model of our sport,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'His legacy spans across his historic performances, the gentle and dignified way he carried himself and his tremendous contributions to golf and society.'
Nelson held the PGA Tour records for most consecutive made cuts (113) and for single-season scoring average (68.33) until both were broken by Woods, who called him 'the greatest ambassador golf has ever known.'
'He retired early,' Woods said early Wednesday from the American Express Championship outside London. 'All he wanted to do was make enough money to buy his ranch. If he had kept playing like guys do now, more than likely he would have won more tournaments than anyone.'
Nelson's mark on the Masters was honored in 1958 when the path that takes golfers over Rae's Creek to the 13th tee was named Nelson Bridge, commemorating his final-day charge over the 12th and 13th holes that sent him to victory in 1937. He later was the annual honorary starter, along with Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. Nelson made his final ceremonial shot in 2001.
'Today we have lost a truly wonderful gentleman,' said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters. 'Byron has meant so much to so many people, and has been an integral and important part of this tournament since he first played here in 1935.'
Nelson for years had been host of the Masters' champions dinner at Augusta National, but he did not make the trip this year, turning the role over to Crenshaw.
'He sent me a note saying he probably wouldn't make it to the next Masters, so he must have had an inkling,' Woods said.
John Byron Nelson was born Feb. 4, 1912, on the family farm in Waxahachie, Texas, and started in golf in 1922 as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth. One year, he won the caddies' championship, defeating Hogan in a playoff.
After graduating from high school, Nelson got a job as a file clerk in the accounting office of the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad and played golf in his spare time. He lost his job during the Great Depression but found work in 1931 with a bankers' magazine.
The same year, he entered his first tournament, the National Amateur in Chicago, where he missed qualifying by one stroke. With jobs hard to find, he turned professional in 1932.
Nelson was excused from military service during World War II because he was a hemophiliac. With many foes in the service, he faced weakened fields -- still, his accomplishments in the war years were astounding.
In 1944, he won 13 of the 23 tournaments he played. But it was the following year that will forever live as one of the greatest in golf history. Besides his 18 wins and streak of 11, he also finished second seven times, was never out of the top 10 and at one point played 19 consecutive rounds under 70.
His streak is honored in a series of displays at the course where his tournament is held. The course also boasts a larger-than-life statue of Nelson; by Tuesday night, several flowers had been placed at its feet.
Nelson was voted AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1944 and 1945. He was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1953 and to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He's now sixth on the career wins list, behind Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer and Woods.
Although Nelson continued to play in an occasional tournament after 1946, he retreated to his 673-acre ranch in Roanoke and never returned to competitive golf full time. He spent time on the course in the 1960s as one of golf's early TV announcers.
Nelson developed a widely imitated 'Texas style' swing that was upright and compact, unlike some of the unwieldy swings of early players.
'The mechanics of my swing were such that it required no thought,' Nelson said. 'It's like eating. You don't think to feed yourself. If you have to think about your swing it takes that much away from your scoring concentration.'
Funeral arrangements were pending, with an announcement expected Wednesday. Besides his wife, Nelson is survived by his brother Charles Nelson and sister Ellen Scherman.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Man of the people

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Growing family

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Departure from TaylorMade

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Squashed beef with Paddy

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Victory at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm