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May 20, 2010

Peggy Nelson


THE MODERATOR: We've got a special guest joining us this morning. Mrs. Peggy Nelson is here at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Mrs. Nelson, thank you for coming by and spending a couple of minutes with us.
PEGGY NELSON: You're welcome.
THE MODERATOR: Lord Byron made so many contributions to this game and nearly four decades with this tournament. I know it's near and dear to your heart. If we can get comments on your being here today and also on your husband.
PEGGY NELSON: This is a first for me, I've never been in this position in this room. I'm usually standing at the back wondering what all was going on. It's a big thrill to be connected with the tournament, to get to work here. I'm wearing my volunteer uniform, been packing lunches this morning, and being part of the tournament is great fun, not only because of the connection with Byron but because it means so much to our charity, and we get such great contributions with our sponsors, HP and the partners, the Four Seasons and the City of Irving, and I love seeing my friends every year.
These are people that I only get to see one week out of the year, so it's great fun, but to have all the sweet memories that I had with Byron is a great pleasure, and they come more alive while we're doing the tournament.
THE MODERATOR: You're going to be busy the next few days with a book signing. Talk about that.
PEGGY NELSON: Yes, our romance was unusual because of the 32 years age difference, the fact that I was a Yankee, from Ohio, and it was an unusual story that took place starting in 1981 when we just met, and that was all there was to it, although I did write him a fan letter, and he was kind enough to write me back and hoped I would enjoy golf, which I did not enjoy, and I did learn to love the game.
And in March of 1986, about five years after Louise had passed away, he was called to come back to that same event where we met, and he remembered my name, somehow had kept my address all that time and wrote me and said he was coming back and would like for me to come out and see him play, and that was in March of '86, and we were married in November. So he knew what he wanted and he went after it, just like in golf.

Q. What was it like writing the book? Did you feel it was easy? Take me through that experience.
PEGGY NELSON: Yeah it was fairly easy to write. I kind of wished I had kept notes or a journal or diary or something; I just don't do that kind of thing, because there were times when I thought I wished I could remember the sequence of different travels and things like that, but it was really -- I guess you would call it a labor of love.
It was fun to go back and revisit some of the sweet memories and fun memories. He was so much fun to live with, and the main reason for writing the book wasn't just about our romance, which was unusual not only because of how it happened initially but because of what he was like to live with. He was very romantic always, and not just with me; he was that way with Louise as well for over fifty years, so he was just a delight. He was funny and so tender, romantic, gentle, and kind, always, to everyone. I learned so much from him purely from example. So writing the book was fairly easy and I had a background in writing as an advertising writer, and I had helped him on his autobiography in 1993.

Q. I think you write in your book about River Hill. Could you share some of your favorite memories of that place?
PEGGY NELSON: Oh my goodness, River Hill Country Club. Byron and Joe Finger designed that course together, and we had a vacation home down there. He and Louise built a house down there and we got to enjoy it for 18 years. We finally sold it when he wasn't able to play golf anymore and it didn't make a whole lot of sense to make that five hour trip for just a couple days of rest, but we had fun playing golf down there.
It's a great course, and I think "Golf Digest" asked him what was his favorite course to play, and of all the tournament courses that he played he chose the Olympic Club, the Lakeside course; he loved that course. But as far as a course to play every single day for the rest of his life, he chose River Hill, and the members there were pleased about that!
It is a fun course to play, but my greatest story about that is I think we had been married four or five years, and I maybe had broken 100 a couple of times, even with this great teacher that I had, that I didn't really take enough advantage of. Of course he was still having to give me a stroke a hole, he was able to play pretty well in the 70s and in the low 80s, and on the ninth hole we both hit good drives, and the forward tees were so close to white tees, I forget which of us outdrove the other, but he hit a second shot and it was like a kick-in birdie, and he put it that close to the pin.
I topped my shot, and I was so mad and I walked up to that thing and I think I took out a 4-iron, and I slapped it and it goes in the hole, you know how it goes? He had to give me a stroke, he made a kick-in birdie, and yet I won the hole! He had lots of fun telling that story. That was one of our favorite memories.

Q. When Byron was still alive I think the top golfers found it impossible to turn down his handwritten invitations and personal invitations. Since his death the fields have diminished somewhat. How do you feel about that?
PEGGY NELSON: Well, we have a full field of mostly millionaires, I think, and they're all great golfers. I don't think anybody in this room can compete with them, so I'm pleased with the people that we have here.
I really understand with all of the prize money out there and with their family obligations and other things they have to do, they cannot be expected to play every week everywhere, and the people we have here are just great golfers. So someone with the lowest score will win, I'm pretty sure of that, and it will be a great week. We're always going to have a good field in terms of their ability to play this great game.

Q. Speaking of fields, one of the younger guys, Hunter Mahan, was in here yesterday and he said he never talked to Byron, but he shook his hand. Do y'all do anything to talk to these younger guys besides the signs or anything that are out there, or do any of them come to you to carry on the tradition to the people, the newer guys, who didn't get a chance to meet him?
PEGGY NELSON: I believe that the Salesmanship Club sent out a copy of this book, which is not just about our story, as I said, but about a lot of other things about Byron, the person that he was. That was the other main reason I wrote the book. I wanted people to know that he was even better in private life than they knew. It was just a total, consistent grace was what I would call it.
That was the way he lived his life, and as well as having a sense of humor and fun and being an encourager. The only thing in the book that I talk about as far as our private life was the first time he kissed me, and he kissed me well and, thoroughly as a matter of fact, and then he stepped back and he was still holding on to my shoulders and he said, "I knew it would be like that." And I was like -- I never got a rave review before. That was nice.
He was a born encourager, and he knew how to do that with people. And the many notes that he wrote to the players and even the ones who didn't necessarily win that week but who were coming along and doing well he felt needed a bit of encouragement, he sent out to them. It's not the same coming from me. I have met a lot of the players and younger players and I appreciate the quality of their game and their personal integrity.

Q. How many players do you keep in touch with or who keep in touch with you now still, even in between tournaments and stuff like that?
PEGGY NELSON: Oh, I would say not a whole lot. I get Christmas cards from some and different things like that, but as far as just the ones that live around here, in the area, not a lot. They've got busy lives and so do I, as a matter of fact.

Q. When you come out here every year, this week, obviously a lot of people come up to you and talk to you about Byron, tell you what a great person he was, I suspect. Is there a tinge of sadness that he's not with us? Because you can never get tired of those stories, I assume.
PEGGY NELSON: Well, when I came back from Bible study, there he was, already gone to heaven, and I chose in that moment to simply be glad for him, knowing where he was. In fact, I remember I put my hand on his cheek and I said, "I'm so glad you're in heaven now," because he had become increasingly concerned the last six months of his life knowing he was going further and further downhill. He knew where he was going; there was no reason to be sad for him.
In the next moment I decided to be glad for all the time that we had together and enjoy the memories and just delight in recalling things that he would say to me. I remember one of my favorite ones was, sometimes I would fuss at him, that seems to be the wife's job, and it was usually over some insignificant thing, and he would apologize or whatever and then later on I would always get to have the last word because I would say, "I'm sorry I fussed at you" and sometimes I would say, "Why do you put up with me?" and he would say, "I took you to raise." which I found entirely charming and appropriate.
People say, "Don't you miss him?" And I don't want to go down that sad road; there is no end to that one. So why not be happy for all the great times we had with him and great memories and the fact that he was the real deal, always.
THE MODERATOR: And we're all truly grateful for the contributions he made to this game, and Mrs. Nelson we appreciate you coming by today, thank you.
PEGGY NELSON: Thank you.

End of FastScripts

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