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April 24, 2007

Tom Lehman

Peggy Nelson

Winfield Padgett

Lawrence Wesson

Brian Whitcomb


WINFIELD PADGETT: My name is Winfield Padgett. I'm here representing the United States Golf Association. It's been a privilege and an honor to serve on the executive committee in the early '90s and the early part of this century, and I can't tell you what a personal privilege and honor it is to be here at this ceremony recognizing my good friend and mentor, Byron Nelson.
You know, great players are often expected to give back much more to the game than the rest of us. And in the case of the United States Golf Association, Byron Nelson never failed to give us his very best in whatever we asked.
Many of you may not know that he was amongst our top volunteers. He served on our Regional Affairs Committee, what's now our Regional Affairs Committee, for some 16 years, and as well he was on the Library Committee, which is our tribute to the history of the game, for some 20 years.
And of course I'm sure all of you know when the USGA got into its equipment and ball testing, operation and methodology, the great swing of Byron's was used as a model for the mechanical device we created, which is affectionally known throughout the world now as "Iron Byron." Byron was very cooperative and instrumental and guided us through that process, making sure that technology was where it needed to be and was giving us the very best we could use and still in use today despite all the advances that have been going on in the sport.
You know, when I reflect on Byron, and I'll be brief, the thing that strikes me the most because I lived in this community with him, he was part of our USGA family here; he came to our meetings regularly. Peggy was kind enough to drop him off in his later years. He'd stay and visit, send notes afterwards. Just what a truly decent human being this man was.
I just want to leave you with one anecdote that's a favorite of ours in USGA history. As Lance mentioned, we're very fond of the fact that Byron did win our U.S. Open Championship. What many may not realize is that he was a contender many times, and particularly in 1946, and in that Championship, approaching one of the final holes -- at that time you must understand we don't have the gallery regimen that we do today, the pathways and the roping and all that kind of business, and everybody was simply invited to follow the players along.
Well, as Byron approached his shot at one of those critical junctures at the last holes, the crowd gathered around and his caddie was jostled a little bit and accidentally stepped on Byron's ball. Those of you familiar with the rules know that that's a one-shot penalty.
There was some confusion about it at the time, Byron got an official at the scene, Mike Grainger, who was later president of the USGA, and they discussed the event. Byron cordially and graciously accepted the penalty.
His caddie, on the other hand, was absolutely heartbroken, and as they left the green and were going to the next tee, he broke down and wept, and I think in showing the great humanity and gentleness of the man, Byron put his arm around him and said, Young man, don't be disappointed about this. I was a caddie once myself, and it could have happened to me.
And that time and that environment, being able to compete at that level, it actually is a result of that penalty being entitled at the end of regulation play and having to go into a playoff the next day. I think it speaks so much to the humanity and graciousness of the human being that we know and love as Byron Nelson.
Peggy, thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this, and the Salesmanship Club. I'd simply say God bless and long live our friend Byron Nelson.
ROSS BERLIN: Mrs. Nelson, Mayor Gears, Mr. Jordan, Salesmanship Club, it's indeed a privilege for me to be here. On behalf of the PGA TOUR, we remember fondly a true legend and one of the game's greatest ambassadors, Byron Nelson.
Byron's abbreviated golf career speaks for itself. Over 60 victories, five major championships, the unparalleled season of 1945 when he had 18 victories, including 11 in a row, truly one of the great sports accomplishments of all time. His career could have been even more remarkable had he continued playing beyond the age of 34, but he chose to retire to his beloved ranch.
When I think about it, it makes his legacy even more memorable because for over 60 years Lord Byron was a selfless contributor and an ambassador for the game, truly representing golf's great values throughout his lifetime. He was a humble, dignified man and a gentleman in every sense. He transcended generations and was universally respected. He was viewed as the consummate role model by all players, rookies and seasoned veterans alike. And Byron's legacy lives throughout this great tournament, which not only is recognized as an outstanding event in terms of competition, but as Lance Barrow mentioned, generating money for charity, a true source of pride for Lord Byron.
On and off the field Lord Byron was, in every sense of the word, a true champion. I'd like to thank the Salesmanship Club and EDS for continuing his legacy. Thank you.
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Good afternoon. It's a privilege to be here. Mrs. Nelson, it's great to see you again. It's especially rewarding to be here at the Four Seasons with the golf tournament with Mr. Nelson's name on it, a golf tournament that does so much for this community and for children and the lives of people, for that's what Mr. Nelson was all about.
It's hard to believe that with the skills, the golf skills and the tremendous array of victories, 11 in a row and 18 championships in 1945, it's hard to believe that he had an even larger skill, and that skill was the human skill. He really touched so many lives and he would be so proud of what's going on at this golf event. He'd be proud of his defending champion Brett Wetterich.
I was privileged enough to be at the celebration of Mr. Nelson's life a few months ago, and it was heartwarming to see the outpouring of passion and love that emanated from the throngs of people that were there.
I come here today for two reasons. One is a personal reason, and of course, the other is the fact that I'm in charge of representing 28,000 men and women, PGA professionals whose lives have been greatly enriched because of Mr. Nelson and his efforts. It's at a personal level to see the humbleness and the dignity and the respect that Mr. Nelson not only showed the game, the people that played it, the professionals, but also the people that enjoyed this great game of golf, and there was never a person left untouched by the dignity and the class of Mr. Nelson.
I can tell you that years ago I played Byron Nelson woods, and they made me a better golfer (laughter). I can also tell you that I tried to play and emulate the life of Mr. Nelson, and that made me an even greater and much better human being, so to Mr. Nelson and the Nelson family and to everyone at this golf event as well as to the game of golf, he did a debt of gratitude to me and 28,000 men and women professionals, who through Mr. Nelson's effort made golf a better game and allowed us all to be better human beings.
LAWRENCE WESSON: Thank you, Lance. Well, just under seven months ago our fellow member, fellow Salesmanship Club member, our tournament's namesake and a dear friend to thousands, if not millions, Byron Nelson, passed away. To honor him and his legacy, our theme is "Byron's Work For the Kids Continues."
These kiddos over here dressed in red exemplify the passion that Byron and all of us in the Club have. Byron's work for the kids continues because it reflects Byron's commitment to these kids. And we are committed as a club that his work will continue in the future.
This year the Salesmanship Club has established two awards programs to signify and honor Byron Nelson. Both programs are designed to continue his legacy of serving youth and families, each in a slightly different way.
First is the Byron Nelson International Junior Golf Award, which will be inaugurated in time for next year's tournament. This program is designed to carry on Byron's legacy for encouraging young players. Junior golfers from around the world will be identified by an international panel of professional golfers and golf officials with the finalist invited to come to the championship each year to participate in this great event.
We expect to recruit talent from the United States, from Europe, from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Rim, the entire world. We believe strongly that recognizing young players from around the world and bringing them here to this event enriches our commitment to young people and reflects what Byron would want us to do.
The other program and the other award is the Byron Nelson Prize. This honor will be presented annually to the person or organization in the golf world who exemplifies the spirit of giving back that was personified by Byron. The Byron Nelson prize will extend and honor Byron's legacy.
Each year the club will solicit nominations from golfers in the PGA TOUR ranks, Champions Tour, the Nationwide Tour, as well as golf writers and reporters from around the world. We encourage them to help us recognize the perfect recipient for this great award.
As a part of this award, a $100,000 contribution will be made to the recipient's charity of choice, and a permanent trophy, which you see over here being brought to me, has been constructed using in part a wooden clock that Byron was creating in his workshop last fall.
It is my privilege and pleasure to present this very first Byron Nelson prize to a great friend of Byron's and a great friend of the game of golf. He has excelled as a player as evidenced by his victory in the 125th British Open Championship in 1996; he is an inspirational leader, as is evidenced by his captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team last year.
He and his wife Melissa have given back to the community in so many important areas, including raising more than $4 million for the Children's Cancer Research Fund at the University of Minnesota. Like Byron, he is a man of great faith, great courage and great perseverance. He is a man of whom clearly Byron would be proud and is proud and is deserving, very richly, of receiving this inaugural award. It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to present the Byron Nelson inaugural prize to Tom Lehman.
The trophy that you hold in your hand is the permanent trophy. There will be a keeper trophy made for you. In the meantime we'd like to present you with a certificate which commemorates the trophy that you will receive. I have in my hand a check for $100,000 for the charity of your choice.
TOM LEHMAN: I just found out about this about a week ago, and I was floored then and I'm even more floored now. In thinking about what I wanted to say today, and I'll try to keep it brief, I felt like the man that Byron Nelson was deserves my complete, honest and heartfelt comments.
I guess where I want to start is why this award is so special to me, you know, and why I'm obviously kind of choked up about it. Because when I think about Byron Nelson, as great of a golfer as he was, I honestly never think about the 11 tournaments in a row and the 18 in one year and the championships he won and all the Ryder Cup teams that he was on. What I think about is the kind of person that he was, and I start there and I finish there because to me, his life reflected all the things that I consider to be most important, his honesty, his integrity, his humility.
His humility was amazing. I'll never forget one of the first times I was around him, he came to the Bible study we had on the Tour on a Wednesday night, and he kind of snuck in the door about a third of the way through and he sat very quietly there until the end, and he slowly raised his hand, and he was like, "Do you mind if I say something?" And all the rest of us are like, It's Byron Nelson. He could have talked for an hour if he wanted to.
He was so humble that he didn't want to intrude and force his way upon people. He was a man of great faith, a man of hard work, and above all, he put people first.
So his legacy to me is so powerful, which is why this tournament will continue on for a long time, by the strength of his legacy.
I know that one thing is for certain, that I've been inspired in my life by Byron Nelson. He's inspired me to want to be a better golfer but more importantly a better person. The first reaction that I had when I was told that this award was coming my way, I guess I have to be honest about this, was why me? Why me? There's so many people in this world that are doing so much and they're so qualified, and I just thought, why me? You know, I'm just a kid from Minnesota.
I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses, and I know the good that I can do and I know the bad that I can do, and I just thought, I don't deserve this. But I did, I learned something a long time ago, which I think is important for me and important for everybody, and that is if it took a perfect person to have an impact on the people around you or an impact on your world, then nobody would do anything ever because nobody is perfect.
So what I do is I think about this award and accept this award. To me it's more about the spirit of the people in my life who have impacted me. I think about where I am. My life is all about the people who pour their heart and soul into me, starting with my parents, my wife, my kids, my brothers, my grandparents, coaches, mentors. The list goes on and on and on, but the people who cared enough about me and loved me enough to want to pour their heart and soul to make my life the best it could be.
So when I think about this award, what I really think about is all those folks. And number two, that it's really my responsibility to take what I've been given, and it's been a lot, and pass it on.
So I think about the Byron Nelson Prize, to me it's an inspiration to pass it on. Thank you very much, and God bless you.

"I knew a man. I knew a great man. Lord Byron was his name. Golf was his claim to fame. Champion inside.
"He taught us all. He taught us all by example every day. Once I heard him say, Lord Byron, wise:
"'You can do anything you feel you need to do." Reach for the stars. Keep the faith in you.'
"'You can do anything, just keep your head held high. Respect all that he's given and he'll give you wings to fly.'
"Even though his skill earned him great rewards, the most precious one of all was his friendship with the Lord.
"The game's finest man, follower of Christ, humble and gentle, a rich and blessed life.
"'You can do anything you feel you need to do. Reach for the stars, keep the faith in you.'
"'You can do anything, just keep your head held high. Respect all that he's given and he'll give you wings to fly. Respect all that he's given and he'll give you wings to fly.'
"'You can do anything.'"
PEGGY NELSON: Thank you, Lance. Wow, kind of hard to talk through tears, y'all. Every one of you kids, I want to give every one of you a hug and a kiss, and Kevin, that's a gorgeous song. I'll treasure that forever.
All these honored guests here, my goodness, what a gathering. Byron would just be beside himself.
I want to thank everyone very much for all your kindness and your enthusiasm and your support through all the years. It's an enormous honor to step into Byron's rightful place to add my welcome to everyone this week, and now I get to share with you one of my favorite stories about Mr. Nelson.
Many of you I'm sure have seen the tournament program and the pictures of this young Byron Nelson that was taken sometime during 1937 Masters tournament, which he fortunately won. So you know if you've seen that picture and some of the other pictures of him as a young man that he was kind of what we might call yummy-looking (laughter).
He didn't think of himself that way, though, and in my opinion he actually got handsomer as he got older. When I would tell him that, he would say, "Nobody ever told me I was good-looking before you came along," and I would say, "Even Louise didn't tell you you were handsome?" And he said, "Well, Louise told me I looked okay but she didn't come out and say handsome."
About a year ago we were on our way to church on Wednesday night, and I was doing my usual, "Honey, you're so handsome." Of course, he was always telling me I was pretty, so of course we're both a little biased. He said, "No one ever told me I was handsome until you came along."
Well, when he started dating Louise back at Texarkana she actually had been seeing a young man who worked at the bank in Texarkana, and of course Byron knew that and that guy fell out of the picture right quick.
So anyway, I said, "Were you better looking than that bank clerk?" And he goes, "Yes, I was!" (Laughter)
I know that we all know where Byron is now, and we know he's having a great time, and he wants us to have a great time this week. So thank you all for coming, and enjoy the golf.

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