September 26, 2006


Golf legend Nelson dies (BRAD TOWNSEND and BILL NICHOLS, 9/26/06, The Dallas Morning News)

Nelson amassed 18 victories during the 1945 season. During one stretch that year, he won 11 consecutive starts, a run that dwarfs golf's next-best streak, six. Another record Nelson always called his most satisfying was the 113 consecutive cuts he made during the 1940s – a feat unmatched until Tiger Woods surpassed him en route to a new record of 142.

Nelson won five major championships: The 1937 and 1942 Masters, the 1940 and 1945 PGA Championships and the 1939 U.S. Open.

Even his swing was the stuff of legend. As wood-shafted golf clubs were being converted to steel, he was the first notable player to incorporate his feet and legs for extra power. He is widely credited as being the father of the modern swing, to the extent that the U.S. Golf Association's club-testing apparatus is called the "Iron Byron."

But to peers, friends and even fans who met him in passing, Nelson the person transcended the golf legend. That may be his most towering attainment of all.

"Byron is an icon of golf," said eight-time major champion Tom Watson, Nelson's longtime friend and protégé. "But more important, he was a good man, in the true sense of the word." [...]

Nelson once said his willingness to help young players probably stemmed from an exchange following the 1930 Texas Open in San Antonio.

An amateur at the time, Nelson had teamed with a Scottish pro named Bobby Cruickshank to finish second in the pro-am competition. Afterward, a proud Nelson figured he had a compliment coming from Cruickshank.

"Laddie, if you don't learn how to grip the club right," Cruickshank told him, "you'll never make a good player."

"Thank you, very much," responded Nelson. He returned home to Fort Worth and revamped his grip. Like many caddies-turned-players at the time, he had his left hand too far over the top of the club and tended to hook the ball to get more roll.

Nelson studied and copied Harry Vardon’s overlapping grip and, of course, became one of golf's greatest players...

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2006 5:32 PM
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