Here it is August and Byron Nelson's winning streak, which began
in March, continues. Just consider the earth-shaking events that
have occurred since Nelson began his run: Franklin Roosevelt
died and Harry Truman became president, Adolph Hitler committed
suicide, Germany surrendered, and Japan appears ready to do
likewise. And through it all Lord Byron, a nickname he says he
hates, has kept on winning, as he did last week for the 11th
straight time, at the Canadian Open.
In truth, there was nothing remarkable about the victory, except
perhaps for one shot during the first round. After three holes
Nelson was one over par, unusual for him. A creek runs across
the 4th fairway, so most players lay up, but Nelson pulled out
his driver and told the galery that he would try to carry the
hazard. The ball landed on a bridge spanning the creek and
bounded 60 yards beyond. "Best break of the round," Nelson said
The rest of the week Nelson needed no such luck. The Mechanical
Man, as he is often called, was tied with Ed Furgol after three
rounds, but a 68 in the final made him the winner by four
strokes. Nelson earned $2,000 in war bonds, bringing his money-
leading total for the year to $37,950.
The strain of the streak is taking its toll. Nelson says that he
is very tired and 12 pounds below "his fighting weight." His
back is still giving him trouble. Nevertheless, after playing in
a pro-am in New Jersey this week, he will try to make it an even
dozen in a row at the Memphis Open.
August 13, 1995
On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima,
destroying the city and killing more than 100,000 people. Eight
days later Japan surrendered. That same week Byron Nelson's
streak came to an end when Fred Haas, an amateur, won the
Memphis Open. Nelson finished fourth. "To tell the truth, I was
greatly relieved," says Nelson, now 83 and living on his
480-acre ranch in Roanoke, Texas. "I was so tired."
Tired he may have been, but not so much that he didn't come
right back the next week and win the Knoxville Invitational.
In fact, he won three more tournaments in 1945, finishing with
$63,335.66 in war bonds, convertible to $47,494 in cash, a money
record that would last until 1954.
Nelson started fast in 1946, winning three of the first four
tournaments. He finished second in the U.S. Open, deprived of
victory when his caddie inadvertently kicked his ball in the
fairway. Nelson won three more times that year and then, without
ceremony, he quit the tour and appeared only in the Masters and
a few other special events.
Earlier that year Byron and his wife, Louise, had found their
ranch. Someone else had bid on it, but when the deal fell
through, Nelson was there, putting down "earnest money." The
price was $55,000 for 630 acres.
Nelson may have quit the tour but he has never quit golf. For
years he was a color commentator for ABC. In 1968 the name of
the Dallas Open was changed to the Byron Nelson Classic. In
recent years he, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen have performed the
ceremonial tee off before the first round of the Masters. He
said it makes him as nervous as any shot he hit in competition.
In April 1983 Louise suffered a stroke; she died two years
later. Nelson was devastated, and his own health seemed to fail,
but a few months later, when he was invited to Dayton to play an
exhibition, he renewed an acquaintance he had with Peggy
Simmons, a woman nearly 33 years his junior. Six months later
they were married. Nelson has referred to himself as a "blessed
man," and anyone visiting the ranch, meeting his young wife and
observing the devotion of his many friends, not only in Texas
but in all of golf, would surely agree.