Remembering Byron Nelson's Historic 1945 Season
This week’s Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour commemorates the life of one of the pioneers of American golf, and one of the finest players of all-time. Born in Texas in 1912 – the same year as Ben Hogan and Sam Snead – Nelson survived a near-fatal bout of typhoid fever as a child to become a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club.
It was his pathway into golf – where he competed alongside a young Hogan – before turning professional in 1932, when the young man combined playing with working at clubs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Picking up his first PGA Tour victory in 1935, Nelson won the fourth Masters Tournament at Augusta National in 1937. He repeated that success five years later, in addition to also securing two successes at the PGA Championship and the 1939 U.S. Open.
However, what Nelson is best remembered for was his extraordinary record breaking season in 1945. That campaign, the 33-year-old won 18 tournaments – including 11 consecutively. He also finished runner-up on seven occasions, setting a standard that will never be matched. Tiger Woods, whose own achievements have come closest to emulating the legendary Texan, stated that the season was "one of the greatest years in the history of the sport.”
Additionally, Nelson made 113 consecutive cuts on tour – events in which he received a check – that corresponded to more than a century of successive top 20 finishes. Ultimately, his career was short lived, officially retiring from competition at the age of 34 to become a rancher and later commentator, but he continued to play in the Masters until 1966.
Later in life, he become an honorary starter at Augusta and remained a popular figure amongst young players, some of whom he mentored, but many who had the fortunate of encountering him in his capacity of tournament host, a tradition continued to this day by his second wife Peggy.
In the dark and despairing midst of the Second World War, Byron Nelson shown a light on the game of golf. It was a season to remember, one that will never be forgotten.
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