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May 11, 2005

Byron Nelson


THE MODERATOR: May I introduce Melanie Hauser and Doug Ferguson with Golf Writers Association of America to present Byron with a special award for the 60th anniversary of the Greatest Year in Golf.

MELANIE HAUSER: Byron, you're a legend. Most of us in this room grew up hearing stories and listening to you and learning from you and only wishing we could have covered a season that was just incredible. Just in honor of that, we would like you to have this from the Golf Writers Association of America, just a little thing to remember -- one more thing to remember the most incredible season ever.

BYRON NELSON: Well, you know, I like to remember it. Thank goodness people aren't letting me forget it. That's the great thing about it. I'm very pleased about that, thank you. It's beautiful, and my wonderful wife likes vases and beautiful things, so she'll like that, also.

MELANIE HAUSER: Are you going to fill it with flowers for her?

BYRON NELSON: Definitely. Have to do that.

MELANIE HAUSER: We thank you for always being there for us and talking to us about so many things.

BYRON NELSON: Well, I thank you so much because golf is the greatest game in the world because you run into the nicest people. I've been associating for all my life, since I was 20 years old, with it, a long time, with people. They're good people around golf, and I've had people, ladies sometimes say to me, when I was at a Florida club, I asked a woman about her son John. "Well, he's at the golf course." "Whenever the children are at a golf course, they're at a good place."

It's a great game, and the people that are connected with it are great. I won't say every one of them (laughter), but percentage-wise it's very high. I think it's higher than any other sport by far.

I'm so pleased to have been a good player, and when I started playing golf, there wasn't any money in golf or anything. I never thought about even being a professional or player but I just wanted to play golf and be a pro and teach people and whatever. See what happened to me?

I was ambitious, I guess, must have been, because it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy. You had to work hard to do the things I did. In '44 I played extra well. They talk about '45 because there was so much, but I won I think eight tournaments in 1944, and my game just seemed to gel, and I played very comfortable. I was pleased with the game and didn't feel like I needed to make any changes in the manner with which I was swinging the club. Maybe a little bit of thought pattern stuff.

One thing I had to learn to do playing golf that you people this and this, one of the things I had to learn to do to win tournaments and play well was to not walk too fast. Now, what caused that is in those days the galleries would walk with you. They weren't roped off. You'd hit a shot, and all of a sudden people would rush to where they could see the next shot. The next thing you know you'd be rushing with them and you'd be out of breath or tired. Any time your breath got fast you swung faster and your rhythm changed. I finally learned to walked fast enough, but just keep that same rhythm. If you speed that rhythm up, the swings will speed up, too, and that's bad.

Pretty soon after I started playing and I realized I wasn't playing well when I played with the gallery, and I knew they weren't bothering me, so I figured out that's what was doing it, and it worked.

Thank you. (Applause).

THE MODERATOR: The City of Irving has a presentation. We didn't think it was possible to have anything left to give you, but we wanted to do something special this year in that this tournament marks the 60-year history. We wanted to lay more course to touch the future, as well, so on behalf of the City of Irving we are establishing a fellowship at the Irving Schools Foundation in your honor, and that will allow a number of grants to be given in the future to youth in our community, give them a lot of the opportunities and capitalize on what you've done for so many youth over the years because of the life you've led and the history you've given us and the charity and the wonderful things this tournament has given us because of your generosity.

BYRON NELSON: You're certainly welcome. That's a great honor and I appreciate you saying all those nice things. I was taught to do right.

I'll say this, that the people that are playing golf and being associated with golf, I don't have any bad friends. I don't have any bad friends. So to receive something like this and being tied to it like that, well, I really appreciate it. It gives me more courage all the time to keep trying to do better good all the time.

THE MODERATOR: You've done plenty for us and we appreciate it all.

BYRON NELSON: Thank you. That's great. (Applause).

JOHN BRADLEY: I'm John Bradley, and now that Phil English is no longer with us I'm kind of Byron's unofficial historian. We'll do a few questions now, but I'm going to tell you one story that I've never seen written enough.

In 1945, the 72-hole scoring record was 264, Craig Wood and some others. Byron wanted to break it. He goes to Corpus and shoots 264 and ties it. His win in Atlanta he shoots 263 and sets it, and late in the year, his buddy Ben Hogan at Portland shoots 261 to beat Byron's record. He only has three tournaments left on the schedule, and he shoots 259 in Seattle two weeks later. Hogan held the record for two weeks. In the same calendar year Byron beat the 72-hole scoring record three times.

So when people say that there wasn't anybody out there, bring them on. He would have beat anyone.

Q. What did you think of the young man that hit the ceremonial first tee ball out there today? He was ten years old?

BYRON NELSON: He is ten years old, and he is swinging the club better than any ten-year old boy I ever saw. He came up and talked to me and he talks like a golfer. He was very polite and very nice, and he pushed -- when he swung, I was watching his back and watching his swing and stuff, and I thought it was beautiful. Of course he's a great player now, he's already won 25 tournaments or something already, but he's going to be a great player if something doesn't happen to him, and I don't think it will because I think his father is seeing after him real well and he has great desire to be a great player. I don't see any reason why he won't make a great player. It's beautiful.

Q. When you finished that 1945 season did you have any inclination at all that at age 93 someone would come close to -- (inaudible)?

BYRON NELSON: I never thought about the fact that I'd ever live to be 93 years old (laughter). You're not a boy that young and think about when you're 93. You want to think about tomorrow, you don't think about 93. I felt this, that all I wanted to do was to do something -- I wanted to be a good person, number one. That's always been my number one thing, and to do the right thing, be a churchgoer and a Christian man and whatever.

But I also wanted to improve the ease with which I played, and I'll say this, that I did, and by just kind of -- by the little things I did, didn't have to make any great changes, because I learned to grip the club together with a grip when I was 18 years old, and I never changed that one time in the rest of my career. When I found something that worked for me, it worked right, well, I never changed it. Because I found a putter called a Harry Cooper made by Spalding Company in 1938, and all the tournaments I won, I still used that putter. That putter -- when I finished playing, I still was using that putter.

So that is so unusual. You see a new putter every day out there now. Well, of course, they weren't making that many putters then, but I loved the putter and it had a good soft feel to it, it was a blade putter, and it was working, so I didn't -- I let it work.

Q. Where is that putter now?

BYRON NELSON: Actually that putter got broken by my friend McSpaden, who was my best friend on the Tour, and I always have been proud of the fact that he considered me his best friend because he was a fine player, and when I was on those streaks, well, he finished 2nd to me 13 times. But we were still friends. As a matter of fact, he named his first son after me. So that was an honor.

But when I finished playing, left the Tour, he wanted to -- after about a month or so, he said, "Byron, I always liked that putter, I never saw another one like it," and I never seen another one like it until this day. So he said, "Could I use it?" I said, "sure," but I knew he was a man always moving his clubs around, changing the loft or moving them around, and he promised me he would not do that because I knew the metal was nice and soft because it had a good feel, it was a blade putter. So in about a month, why, I called him one day and I was talking to him, and he was kind of sheepish like. I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "I broke that putter." So of course he broke the hosel, so that was the only club I ever had in my life, all my career, that I ever wanted to keep. But it went, too.

Q. (Inaudible).

BYRON NELSON: A lot. I think the thing that has made this tournament what it is, and also it's made my name -- when they came to me and wanted to use my name because I had been working with them a little bit, not necessarily with them, but I had been critical about the Dallas Open tournament being a complete failure, a complete failure, and they asked me why it's such a failure. I said, "You have one golf course one year and another one another," and it didn't have any continuity.

So they listened to me and they changed it in 1968 and started it, and when they came to me, they were at Preston Trail for 15 years, so they came to me, called me up from Dallas, W.L. Todd, and some of you are old enough to know Feebs, but Feebs was a great writer and editor of the Dallas Times Herald. So they came out and they told me, "Well, we're going to the same place now. We've made a deal to have the tournament at Preston Trail." But of course I said, "Preston Trail? Well, the golf course is good." "We know, we were talking about that but that's where it's going."

Then one of them said, "There's one thing," so I said, "Well, what's that?" "You letting us use your name," the Byron Nelson Classic. Of course it's the Byron Nelson Championship now about the last three years. Really I was flabbergasted. I could hardly say anything for a while because I was so honored that they wanted to do that.

So that's the way the tournament got started. They had a big party that fall. That was early fall, and in the late fall announcing the change in the tournament, the Dallas Open.

I'll tell you what, this amateur club, even then, they did things up right. Chris Krenkel, who was the top sports announcer in America, and Governor Connelly was there and the two entertainers were Sammy Davis and Glen Campbell, and it was the only party that -- my mother was there, and Ben Hogan came even, and we had it in Dallas and Governor Connelly had some nice things to say. That's when the tournament took off.

But right then they said our tournament is going to raise money; all the money goes in for the charity for the work that we do with children. I really feel that we have -- can kind of pat ourselves on the back, and I'm not being critical of anybody else, but the fact that other tournaments are so highly successful because of the charity, what they were doing with the charity, and I think that's what -- then when they started going because for a long time we were raising much more, 10 or 15 percent even.

Even Tim Finchem went in, he came here one time to Dallas a few years ago in December with the sponsors, and he said, "We have now raised over" -- "We've raised $330 million," and he pointed to our committee, and he said, "they've raised 10 percent of it." So I think that the other tournaments saw what has happened to our tournament -- not our tournament as such but what's happening because of our tournament.

So I say this, that this tournament is the best thing that ever happened to me as far as golf is concerned by far, more than my record or anything else. But of course fortunately my record, it was fortunate that it happened that way, but that's what it's all about.

Q. I saw a story where you described -- (inaudible) -- in a trance. You were sort of a sustained role. Can you talk about that a little bit?

BYRON NELSON: It lasted for about a year. It lasted for a year because the last one I won was at Glen Garden two weeks before Christmas, and that's where I had started as a caddie.

Well, it was not that hard. The thing that was hard was the actual traveling and moving from tournament to tournament to tournament. You had to drive. There was a DC-3 you could fly in, and your luggage, they could only put so much luggage, so much weight, and they had weighed every piece of luggage you got on that plane with, and you got 44 pounds, period. If you were a little bit over that you had to buy another ticket. So we had to buy three tickets because your golf clubs loaded up with your shoes weighs 40 pounds, so that's your ticket there, so you've got to buy another ticket.

I'll tell you how slow it was, too, of course. I know one time I played in Tulsa and I did fly to Seattle from there and I left at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and I got into Seattle that night at 9:00.

Q. The golf itself was relatively easy you're saying during that stretch?

BYRON NELSON: No, the golf wasn't ever easy. The golf wasn't easy but my game was such that I didn't have to -- well, I needed to change this, I needed to change that because I was playing well and was very comfortable. I wouldn't say I was the best player in the world or anything, but it was comfortable the way I was playing, and I felt completely comfortable.

I had what I called a rocking chair swing. I went from here to here, just like this. Now they go from here to here. What's said about the players, I talked to Tim Finchem a little bit about it today, in my time there was never anything said about hitting the ball hard. They talked about putting it in the fairway because the rough was so bad you had to keep it in the fairway. When they started hitting it hard and they started making balls go farther and they kept going on and on, and someone asked me why do they do that, and I said one thing, dollar bill. Somebody makes a golf ball or a golf club that goes farther and someone makes one farther than that, sell them, sell them, sell them, and that's why it went so fast and so high.

Q. Did you ever wonder what you might do with today's technology?

BYRON NELSON: No (laughter). If somebody asked me the question sometime back -- if you played now with the equipment and stuff that they play, how many millions do you think you'd win? And it didn't take me long to answer it. I said, "Well, there's one thing, I wouldn't go hungry." That's what I said exactly.

Okay, gotta go.

End of FastScripts.

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