Byron Nelson

Golfer who won a record-breaking 11 tournaments in a row in 1945 and retired the following year

Byron Nelson, golfer: born Waxahachie, Texas 4 February 1912; twice married; died Roanoke, Texas 26 September 2006.

For 60 years after he retired from playing regular tournament golf Byron Nelson remained one of the most respected figures in the sport. He was known as "Lord Byron" - less for his dominating play on the course as for his gentle demeanour, his good manners, his humility and dignity. He would rate a place in any discussion on the greatest players the game has seen but, as the first gentleman of golf, he had fewer rivals.

In 1945 Nelson achieved two records for victories which remain untouched today. He won an incomprehensible 11 tournaments in a row and 18 in the whole season. "I don't think that anyone will ever exceed the things that Byron did by winning 11 tournaments in a row in one year," said Arnold Palmer:

But I suppose that is not the most admirable thing that he did, although it was certainly tremendous. He was a fantastic person whom I admired from the time I was a boy.

Nelson was born on a cotton farm in Waxahachie, Texas, in 1912. He became one of the golfing legends and was one of three to be born within six months - the others being Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. The trio earned 21 major golf titles among them.

His first experience of golf came at the Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth. He was a caddie at the same time as Hogan and in 1927 Nelson defeated Hogan for the caddies' championship. Unable to find long-term employment in the Great Depression, he turned professional in 1932.

Nelson's career was short but dazzling. He won five major championships, including the United States Open in 1939 and the Masters in 1937 and 1942. He was exempt from war service due to haemophilia and instead went on the greatest winning streak the game has known. Between 1944 and 1946 he won 34 times in 75 tournaments and was only out of the top 10 once.

Tiger Woods nominates Nelson's 11 consecutive wins as "one of the greatest streaks in all of sport". Nelson set another longstanding record by finishing "in the money" in 113 consecutive events. Woods beat this record two years ago but in Nelson's day only the leading 20 or 25 players received any prize money.

As a tall man, Nelson played with his arms close to his body. He swing was upright, with a full shoulder turn and bent knees, utilising the muscles in his hips and legs rather than his wrists. It was a swing to take advantage of the new metal-shafted clubs and his and Hogan's actions remain the two that influence players to this day. His was the most consistent strike of the ball, sending it away straighter more often, and when the United States Golf Association developed a mechanical device to test equipment it was known as "Iron Byron".

At the end of 1946 at the age of 34, Nelson retired with his first wife, Louise, to their ranch at Roanoke, where all his prize money had been used to buy everything, including tractors and cows. He played occasionally still, the French Open in 1955 being the last of his 66 wins around the world, and he never lost touch with the game. He pioneered golf broadcasting on television and mentored several players, including the five-time Open champion Tom Watson.

He hosted a tournament in Dallas every year from 1967. Rather than any cheque, to be congratulated by Nelson and, later, to receive a hand-written note, was the champion's true prize. He attended the Masters every year, acting as an honorary starter and performing the master-of-ceremonies duties at the past champions' dinner.

"I don't know very much," Nelson, who married Peggy after the death of his first wife 20 years ago, told the Associated Press in 1997:

I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man.

Andy Farrell

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments