My first major win, at the '81 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, came about 45 minutes from my home in Acworth, Ga. I have two boys who were 2 and 4 at that time, so I was well occupied when not at the course. When playing near your home you have to compete while doing all the things that you normally do when you're home. Some players don't do that well. I loved it. When I hit my second shot into the bunker by the green on 18 the last day, I knew I had won. The walk to the green, which was surrounded by stands filled with family and friends, was both fun and emotional.
2 of 10Brian Morgan/Getty Images
This is the best Ryder Cup team ever assembled if you go by Hall of Fame members and major victories. Of the 12-man team, nine are in the Hall of Fame and 11 have won a major championship. It was a thrill to be a part of the team [which beat Europe 14.5-13.5].
3 of 10Brian Morgan/Getty Images
What a great week this was. My first Ryder Cup [in 1979] and I was paired with one of the most fearless competitors and ended the week 5-0. I had never played match play before. Lanny asked Billy Casper to let me play with him so he could help me adjust to it, and I learned a lot. Lanny taught me that when you get 1 up try to get 2 up, then 3 up. Never be satisfied with just being up.
4 of 10UPI/Corbis
Finally, my first win, the '79 Jackie Gleason Inverarry Classic. You think you can, you hope you can, but just don't know if you can until it happens. I felt that all the practice had paid off.
5 of 10Bill Knight
This book, "Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals of Golf," taught me the swing. Although I don't swing like Hogan, what I learned from his book helped me to progress more quickly than anyone would have guessed. The lessons could be done one at a time, and the illustrations allowed me to work on the fundamentals by myself. I would practice one lesson until I had it down and then go on to the next. I still refer to the book when my swing gets off.
6 of 10Larry Nelson
Our wars are fought by the young. When I look at this picture I am reminded of the young men and women who protect our freedom today. I served in the infantry in Vietnam. I went over with a new unit, the 198th Light Infantry, with six months left of my two years service. I received a 90-day early out to go back to school. I was in country 90 days. When I was in training in Fort Hood, Texas, to go to Vietnam, a friend of mine who played golf for Miami Dade College talked about the game all the time. So I tried it when I returned home. I took it up just to fill time. My wife worked and didn't get home until 6 in the evening. I had one class at Kennesaw State [near Atlanta] and needed something to do until she got home. There was a golf course close to campus, so I joined and spent my days hitting balls and playing.
7 of 10Larry Nelson
I lived in Detroit for about six months. This pony and these cowboy outfits were brought around to various housing projects, where parents would pay to have their child's picture taken. We moved to Detroit because my father was a car-body repairman in Alabama and got a job working for an automotive manufacturer.
8 of 10Larry Nelson
I was a very good basketball player in high school. I held the single-game scoring record at North Cobb High School [near Atlanta] for around 15 years. Nice shorts.
9 of 10Gary Bogdon/SI
Three decades after winning his first of three majors the PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club the humble Georgian reflects on his time in Vietnam, his Hall of Fame career, and history's greatest Ryder Cup team.
10 of 10Brian Morgan/Getty Images
Dave Marr what a terrific man and captain [in 1981]. He was the type of person you just wanted to win for. He was so positive and encouraging. I was supposed to have been the captain the year Lanny [Wadkins] was, in 1995. He asked me if he could talk to the PGA and see if they would let him be the captain instead of me, because of my [4-0] record against Seve Ballesteros in '79, and the fact that the next Ryder Cup would be in Spain. I agreed, so Lanny was captain before me, and I was in Japan when they named Tom Kite captain against Seve two years later. So yes, I was disappointed not to have ever been captain.
You May Like
More Tours & News
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!