Personal Encounters With Byron

By George WhiteOctober 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
One final Byron Nelson article, this from several people who were lucky enough to have had personal encounters:
 
  • I had a brief encounter with Mr. Nelson at the first tee of the par-3 contest at the Masters when my son, Bo Van Pelt, invited me to caddy for him in his first Masters appearance. Afterwards, we posed for a few cherished pictures to savor that moment in time. Bo very quietly said, 'Dad, this is Mr. Byron Nelson.' We shook hands and Mr. Nelson said, 'Mr. Van Pelt, this has to be a very special moment for you and your son. It was a humble understatement. In that brief moment we understood that we were in the presence of greatness, a grace and humility that God grants to very special people.
     

  • I worked with him on an article when I edited the Arizona Golf Journal 20 years ago. I met Byron Nelson on a golf course in Scottsdale. I also was nervous about trying to connect with him on a project but I had to try. He said, 'Sure, I'll talk to you, just call me, I'm in the phonebook under Nelson.' ... I made the call only to set up an appointment, so as not to impose. He answered the phone, asked me how I was doing, took a minute to introduce me to his wife Peggy, and asked me to call back in 45 minutes - he was eating supper and had to get the dishes out of the way. When I called back, we talked for 45 minutes, some to the point of my article and some on the ranch my mother grew up on in northern Arizona.
     

  • The year: 1968. The setting: the customer waiting area a car dealership in Dallas. I was a 25-year-old sometime assistant golf pro and sometime player.
    There were only two of us in the waiting area: me and Mr. Byron Nelson. I asked him what it took to be a pro. Without hesitation he said, Let's have a look at your grip. There were no clubs in the waiting area, but there was a thick phone line that dangled from one of the old style push-button phones with a bank of about 10 lines. He handed me the cord. I placed my hands on it and he made some adjustments: weakened my left and strengthened my right. It was an example of great honesty, integrity to the game, and his humility.
     

  • Early in 1989, Mr. Nelson and D. A. Weibring had purchased the Riverside Golf club in Grand Prairie, TX. I played the course the initial day it reopened. They were having a 'beat the pro day' with Mr. Weibring on one of the par 3's. While playing up to that hole I noticed a cart with an older gentleman and younger lady moving on an adjacent hole. I told my playing partner that I thought the gentleman looked a lot like Byron Nelson. Much to our surprise, when we reached the par 3 eighth, there was Mr. Weibring standing next to Byron Nelson! There was a small backup on the tee and we had about 5 or 10 minutes to speak with these two gentlemen. I found Mr. Nelson to be an extremely gracious man and an absolute joy to talk with. Prior to leaving the tee to go to the green, we convinced Mr. Nelson to hit a shot to the green for us. He used my 1979 Ben Hogan Apex II 6 iron and while the shot was not hit solidly, that did not matter. I had an opportunity to see a living legend strike a golf ball with one of my clubs! To this day, I still own that set of irons and would not part with them for any amount of money.
     

  • Almost 8 years ago, I had the (fill-in the blank) to call Mr. Nelson to see if I could visit with him in his home. I was fairly new to the game, but had passionately fallen in love with the game, its history, and heroes. I thought to myself, 'Why not, the worst thing he could say was no.' But not Mr. Nelson. With a dry twisted-tongue and butterflies flying out of formation, I called and he graciously agreed to meet in two days at 9:30 am. The half-hour visit flew by, but I felt that I had easily experienced 60 years of golf history! Before leaving, I asked Mr. Nelson if he would sign my copy of his little black book. It, along with two other little golf books, has its very own place in my room!
     

  • For many of us average (or below average) golfers that were lucky enough to see him at his tournament, Byron was always friendly and would wave, patiently sign autographs, and talk about the sport he loved so much. In my case, because I lived in Roanoke (Texas) for 10 years, I was lucky enough to see him several times. EVERYONE there loved Byron and they will certainly miss him.
     

  • I stood behind him in a gallery at the Memorial Tournament one year, and my friend was prodding me to talk to him. All I could do was just stare at him from the side, too shy to approach. I wish I had the nerve then, now.
     
    Email your thoughts to George White
  • Getty Images

    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

    Getty Images

    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

    Getty Images

    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

    Getty Images

    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.