Nelson Remembered as More Than Great Player
Bradley returned from a trip to the U.S. Golf Association's museum and recounted all the memorabilia from his friend's career that he'd seen. His only disappointment was that USGA officials didn't fire up the 'Iron Byron' swing machine so he could see it in action.
'No?' Nelson told him. 'But they did for me.'
That was Nelson: Proud of his golf legacy, eager to share it with others and puzzled that he'd be treated different from anyone else.
Although he considered himself an ordinary man, the memories shared during a 1 1/2 -hour memorial service Friday were far from it -- from a powerful speech by his widow, Peggy, to his minister calling Nelson 'the greatest man I've ever known.'
'We can debate over which man was the greatest golfer, but we can never debate which golfer was the greatest man,' said Rick Atchley, senior minister of the Richland Hills Church of Christ.
Nelson died Tuesday of natural causes at his Roanoke ranch. He was 94, and his last words were to Peggy as she headed out for church: 'I'm so proud of you.'
'I'm sure he would've wanted to say that to every one of you,' she told about 2,200 people, so many that she mouthed 'Wow' when she went stepped to the podium and looked out at the sanctuary.
The Nelsons were two months from their 20th anniversary. They celebrated their 238th month together a few months ago, continuing a tradition of treasuring every day that began early in their marriage. Nelson's first wife, Louise, died in 1985, having spent her final two years paralyzed by a stroke.
'With this man, who was better than a prince because his nickname was 'Lord Byron,' all my dreams ... came true,' Peggy Nelson said. 'He was my joy.'
Nelson touched many lives, as a friend, teacher and role model. He was deeply religious, yet showed it mostly through his devotion to his church.
His place in golf lore is sealed by his 52 wins, including five majors (he was a runner-up in six others) and a whopping 18 victories in 1945.
Anyone who has ever played golf can only marvel at his top feat, an 11-tournament winning streak in 1945 that is often compared to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as the least likely to be topped. It's worth noting that folks have come closer to DiMaggio's streak than Nelson's.
While the purity of Nelson's swing is remembered most, several speakers referred to his large hands and powerful forearms.
And then there was the competitive nature often forgotten because of his sweet nature.
Bradley recalled Sam Snead telling everyone at a party commemorating The Streak that Nelson 'didn't drink, didn't dance ... I don't think he had any fun.'
'Byron put an arm on the podium, leaned over and said, 'Sam, you don't think winning 11 straight tournaments was fun?'' Bradley said.
Ben Crenshaw, among about a dozen pro golfers in the crowd, said before the service that Nelson was 'the most consistent player who ever lived.' He half-jokingly added, 'You cannot have won all those tournaments without a mean streak in you somewhere.'
Nelson retired at age 34 for the simple reason that he'd earned enough money to buy a ranch. After all, sports didn't pay the same in the 1940s as they do today, something he often reminded folks in his many stories.
Nelson remained close to the game over his final 60 years as a teacher, one of the first TV analysts and as a friend to everyone.
Players born long after Nelson got to know him through the PGA Tour stop named after him in 1968. It was the first to carry a player's name and has since become the tour's No. 1 fundraiser for charity. Nelson was a gracious host and a keen recruiter of talent; he once wrangled a sponsor's invitation for a high school kid named Tiger Woods.
He loved sending notes to players, 'and it wasn't always after a win,' said Justin Leonard, one of many Dallas-area golfers whose career Nelson was able to follow closely. 'It was encouragement when you weren't playing well.'
Ken Venturi and Tom Watson were Nelson's greatest pupils. Both attended the service, with Venturi speaking during the part of the service reflecting on Nelson's golf career; other parts focused on him as a friend, an uncle and Atchley talking about 'the man, the saint.'
'The game of golf would not be what it is today without Byron, the finest gentleman that ever was,' Venturi said. 'I can truly say I never heard anyone say anything bad about Byron or Byron say anything bad about anyone.'
Venturi said Nelson was like a father to him, and that he recently thanked him for it. He asked if there was anything he could do in return.
'Be good to the game, Ken, and give back,' Venturi said.
Nelson was always giving, from the notes to the advice to things he carved in his beloved woodworking shop on his ranch. Bradley visited the shop since Nelson's death and found 14 clocks in various stages of being built; among his final products were a dozen slivers branded with a psalm for each member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which competed last weekend.
Tom Lehman, captain of that squad, withdrew from the American Express Championship in England to fly to Texas for the service. Loren Roberts jeopardized his spot atop the Champions Tour points and earnings lists by dropping out of this weekend's event to be here.
Tracey Stewart, widow of Payne Stewart, flew in the day Nelson died to be with his widow. Payne Stewart befriended Byron Nelson during his college days at SMU; Byron Nelson spoke at services following Stewart's death in 1999.
Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin, D.A. Weibring, Tom Purtzer and Brandt Jobe were among other golfers attending. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, Roger Cleveland -- whose company, Cleveland Golf, made the Byron Nelson line of clubs -- and broadcasters Pat Summerall, Jim Nantz and David Feherty also were in the crowd.
Nelson's legacy will endure through the Byron Nelson Championship. The event has generated more than $94 million for charity, earning him the government's top honor for philanthropy.
Unfortunately, the Senate did not approve the Byron Nelson Congressional Gold Medal Act until Wednesday, and it won't be official until being signed by President Bush. However, it went through the U.S. House earlier this year and Nelson knew late last week that there was enough support in the Senate.
Tournament sponsor EDS took out a full-page ad in The Dallas Morning News on Friday to honor his memory. 'A hero whose vision went beyond 18 holes' was written in all capital letters above a profile photograph.
'His legacy of kindness, humility and reaching out to help others in need will long outlive the legacy he left us on the course,' the ad read. 'We will remember Byron fondly as we carry on our commitment to his namesake tournament.'
Next year's event will be April 26-29, moved up from its usual May date.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME
Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.
Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)
What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.
Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.
Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.
Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.
Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.
Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.
Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai
While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.
Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.
The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.
The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.
Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.
''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.
Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.
Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.
''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''
The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.
Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.
''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.