My Time with Golfs Gentleman

By George WhiteSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
As great a golfer as he was, Byron Nelson had something about him which was far more difficult to achieve ' he was universally loved, respected and admired.
 
I cant honestly say that I really knew Mr. Nelson. Over the past 30 years Ive had the standard number of professional chit-chats, the requisite amount of interviewer-interviewee talks. But I have known a number of people in the golf profession who knew him as a friend. And to a person, they have universally lauded him as a kind, tender sort of man who was always the same to every person, be they a king, a president or an everyday son of the soil.
 
I first met and spoke with Mr. Nelson long ago at the Masters golf tournament. He walked into the dining room of the clubhouse and I recognized him immediately. Heart palpitating and tongue in a knot, I sidled up to him. An interview with Byron Nelson ' dare I even grasp at the possibility?
 
And he was as kind, as gracious a person as I have ever met. He gladly acceded to my halting attempts to question him. He patiently answered the usual questions for the thousandth time, explaining what thoughts went through his head as he piled up win after win en route to his incredible 11-victory streak in 1945. He spoke of the differences that he had seen in the Masters from the time he began playing in the mid-'30s and what it had become in the 80s.
 
I only spoke to him for perhaps 10 minutes. But it was awe-inspring; and at the same time it was very comfortable. Here was living, breathing history talking to me, but he was chatting to me in the same relaxed, down-home manner as my grandfather would.
 
Down through the decades, I have had the pleasure of listening to him discuss numerous topics in mass-interview situations. One of the annual highlights of the tournament which he sponsors ' the EDS Byron Nelson Championship ' was the Wednesday sitdown with the media when reporters were encouraged to ask whatever was on their minds and he rambled on about whatever topic they chose.
 
Mr. Nelson was always a gracious individual. Though he quit playing the professional golf tour at the age of 34 ' he had won enough, he said, to buy his ranch and settle down ' he never became fixated on how great he might have been. Instead, he gladly gave credit to others ' Tiger Woods, he felt, was a much better golfer than he. So was Jack Nicklaus. That was just Mr. Nelson.
 
The only thing that got his dander up was when someone slighted his record of 11 consecutive wins in 45. And then, he became irritated as much because he perceived his opposition was being downrated as he felt he personally was maligned. And the same was true as Tiger approached, then passed, his record of cuts made. It wasnt that he didnt feel Tiger deserved the mark. It was much more that he wanted to glorify the players against whom he, Byron Nelson, competed.
 
Nelson, you see, played during a time when often only 20 or so players would be paid. And those were the players who were considered to have made the cut. The fact that he survived 113 cuts was always a point of great pride, maybe as much as winning the 11 straight and 18 overall in 1945.
 
A blood disorder kept him from being eligible for military service in World War II. So he continued to play during the war years. But in 1946 he had had enough of the sporting scene and of being a hero. He bought his ranch near Fort Worth, settled down, and became just John Q. Everyman. How common a man was he? He had his name in the phone book - no private number for this very public gentleman.
 
The fact that he could have become the worlds greatest golfer didnt faze him. He didnt play for the records ' he played primarily to make the money where he could return to a simple, private life. And when he earned enough that he could settle into comfortable retirement, he did exactly that.
 
But I will always remember what he did for a scared young reporter who approached him nervously at Augusta . There has never been a man like Mr. Nelson. And ' oh, by the way ' he also was a great golfer.
 
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  • Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.