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.
Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out
Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole, No. 9.
Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.
"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.
"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.
Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."
"I'm not," harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."
"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.
He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from some TV cables, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.
Na (62) leads Hoffman by one at Colonial
Kevin Na leads the Fort Worth Invitational by one over Charley Hoffman following a first-round 8-under 62. Here's where things stand through 18 holes at Colonial.
Leaderboard: Na (-8), Hoffman (-7), Emiliano Grillo (-6), Jhonattan Vegas (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Beau Hossler (-6)
What it means: The veteran Na is in search of just his second PGA Tour victory in 367 events played. The 34-year-old's lone victory came at the 2011 Shriners to go along with nine runner-ups, the most recent of which was a tie for second at this year's Genesis Open. Na missed three straight cuts in April but has rallied back with a weekend stay at The Players and a T-6 at last week's Byron Nelson. Ranked 75th in the world, he is not currently qualified for the U.S. Open or the Open Championship.
Round of the day: Na turned in a clean card Thursday with six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 first, his 10th hole of the day. He closed with a chip-in birdie at No. 9 following a friendly disagreement with his caddie (more on that below).
Best of the rest: Hoffman was likewise bogey-free, drawing seven circles. The four-time Tour winner and typically steady performer has yet to register a top-10 finish this season.
Biggest disappointment: Not that a round of 1 under is tragically disappointing, but Jordan Spieth has a pretty solid history of going low at this event and contending for the title. He's seven back through Round 1.
Shot of the day: Satoshi Kodaira recorded the second albatross in tournament history when he holed a 3-iron from 234 yards at the first.
Honorable mention: Na got into a pretty good back-and-forth with his caddie about whether to lay up or try to clear the water from the right rough at No. 9. Na went for it, avoided hazard, and holed this chip for birdie.
Quote of the day: "I told you." - Na, after his chip-in
Golf Channel's NCAA Golf Coverage Continues Mon-Wed., May 28-30 With the NCAA Men's Golf Championships
Two National Championships to be Decided Over a Three-Day Span – Individual (Mon., May 28) and Team (Wed., May 30)
Eight of the Top-10 Ranked Programs in the Country Set to Compete; Reigning NCAA Men’s National Champions Oklahoma and Current Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Paired Together Starting Friday
Buick and Stifel Co-Presenting Sponsors of Golf Channel’s Coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships
ORLANDO, Fla., May 24, 2018 – Coming on the heels of Wednesday’s dramatic championship match where Arizona defeated Alabama in a playoff to claim their third women’s golf team national championship, Golf Channel returns to Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. next week for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf National Championships. Taking place Monday-Wednesday, May 28-30, Golf Channel’s coverage will feature nearly 30 hours of live tournament and on-site wraparound news coverage, showcasing the top men’s college golf programs in the country.
NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage: Coverage begins on Monday, May 28 to crown the individual national champion and to track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29-30 will include all three rounds of the team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion.
In addition, Golf Central will surround live tournament action with pre-and post-event news coverage produced on-site at Karsten Creek Golf Club, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and online via Golf Channel Digital. News and tournament coverage also will be live streamed on Golf Channel Digital. College Central, Golf Channel’s online home for college golf, will provide comprehensive editorial coverage throughout the championships.
Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)
Monday, May 28
Individual National Championship
4-8 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29
Quarterfinals, Team Match Play
11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29
Semifinals, Team Match Play
4-8 p.m. (Live)
Wednesday, May 30
Team Match Play National Championship
4-8 p.m. (Live)
Stifel and Buick Sign on as Co-Presenting Sponsors for Golf Channel’s NCAA Golf Championships Tournament Coverage: New for 2018, Stifel Financial Corp. and Buick have signed on as co-presenting sponsors for Golf Channel’s tournament coverage of the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. In addition, Stifel has extended its partnership with the Fred Haskins Commission, Golf Channel and Golfweek as presenting sponsor of the Fred Haskins Award, given annually to nation’s outstanding male collegiate golfer.Golf Channel will announce the Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel following the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, on a live edition of Golf Central, Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m. ET. The show will include profiles on the top candidates for the award and a live interview with the winner, who also will receive an exemption to compete in the 2018 Greenbrier Classic on the PGA TOUR. The Haskins Award honors the nation’s most outstanding male Division I collegiate golfer as selected by his peers, coaches and the golf media.
Semifinal Teams in Match Play to Receive Invitations to Compete in East Lake Cup: The East Lake Cup, taking place in late October at historic East Lake Golf Club, will feature the top-performing teams from the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Invitations for the field have been extended to Arizona, Alabama, Southern California and Stanford – semifinalists in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, and also will be extended to the semifinalists in the Men’s Championships. Modeled after the NCAA Golf Championships, the format for the East Lake Cup consists of an opening round of stroke play to crown an individual male and female champion and determine seeding for the following two days of match play competition. Golf Channel will air live coverage of the East Lake Cup Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 29-31.
College Central – Golf Channel Digital Coverage: Golf Channel will provide comprehensive coverage via College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, and Ryan Lavner, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.
Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut
Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.
Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.
Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.
Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.
While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:
No prob Doug. I’m +11 now and tweeting during my round. I’m playing as hard as I can. I have 8 holes left if you want to come out and kiss my ass. https://t.co/UMeFWFKLVP— Jake Owen (@jakeowen) May 24, 2018