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.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.