Golf Great Byron Nelson Dead at 94 - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/26/06

Golf Great Byron Nelson Dead at 94

Legendary golfer Byron Nelson tips his hat during the opening ceremony of the Byron Nelson Championship golf tournament Tuesday, May 9, 2006, in Irving, Texas. (Matt Slocum/ AP Photo ) Legendary golfer Byron Nelson tips his hat during the opening ceremony of the Byron Nelson Championship golf tournament Tuesday, May 9, 2006, in Irving, Texas. (Matt Slocum/ AP Photo )

DALLAS - Sept. 26, 2006 - Professional golfer Byron Nelson, who had the greatest year in the history of professional golf when he won 18 tournaments in 1945, including 11 in a record row, died Tuesday. He was 94.

There was no cause of death listed on the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Web site Tuesday. John Bradley, Byron's Financial Consultant and family friend, said Nelson died at his home around noon.

Known as "Lord Byron" because of his elegant swing and gentle manner, Nelson won 31 of 54 tournaments in 1944-45 then at the age of 34 retired after the 1946 season to spend more time on his Texas ranch.

The namesake of the Byron Nelson Classic, Nelson was passed by Tiger Woods for fifth on the all-time career victory list earlier this month. Woods won the Deutsche Bank on Sept. 4 for his 53rd career victory; Nelson has 52.

"When I was playing regularly, I had a goal," Nelson recalled years later. "I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow. It gave me incentive."

That incentive pushed Nelson to become one of the best players of his era. He won the Masters in 1937 and '42, the U.S. Open in 1939 and the PGA Championship in 1940 and '45.

He also finished second once in the U.S. Open, twice in the Masters and three times in the PGA. Nelson played in British Open only twice, finishing fifth in 1937.

"He was so fiercely competitive, yet he was the humblest, nicest person in the world," said his financial consultant and close friend John Bradley.  "People would say that every time I was around Bryon, he made me feel good, and he did that to everybody his entire life."

That sentiment was echoed today by a couple of area golf pros who knew "Lord Byon" well.

"I can't ever remember even hearing anybody say anything ever bad about the man," said The Cascades head golf pro Kenny Huff, who was Director of Instruction at the Byron Nelson Golf School at The Four Seasons at Los Calinas for two years.  "He was just a treasure.  The last ten years, when we would have golf schools up at The Four Seasons, he would come out each lunch with the guys, talk to them for two hours.  He's probably the greatest man you'll ever meet.  It's just a sad, sady day."

"There's no question, that he was basically one of the finest gentleman of the game," added Willowbrook head golf pro Chris Hudson, who also knew Nelson from his days living in Dallas, having lunch with the legend on several occassions.  "The impression he makes to you is what a great man he is and great gentleman, and that's something you've always heard.  He loved golf, he loved his ranch, he loved to help kids and peopls, once again with the tournament and the salesmanship club.  It's hard to put it into perspective.  It's a great loss."

Also hard to put into perspective is his impact on the game itself. referring again to that magical year in 1945.

"Nobody will probably ever win six in-a-row, that's just how good it was," Huff said about Nelson's 11 straight wins in 1945.  "I know the competition might have been different, but 11 in-a-row at any era at any time is unheard of."

"He'll go down in history as one of the very best players ever," said Hudson, summing it all up.

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