St. Augustine, Fla. (March 24, 2004) – The World Golf Hall of Fame’s exhibit, Byron Nelson: A Champion…A Gentleman, opened this week to visitors after a private unveiling featuring the golf legend on Monday, March 22nd. The exhibit, which traces the story of the golfer’s life, will remain open at the Hall of Fame through December 2004.
Byron Nelson: A Champion… A Gentleman recognizes and celebrates the golfer’s accomplishments by displaying numerous honors and personal possessions of Nelson, symbolizing his impact on the game. “It’s amazing what you can do with ingenuity and hard work,” Nelson said at the opening night reception. “I’ve seen most of those things over the last 75 years, but when you see them all put together like that, I realize I’ve lived a blessed life. To be in the World Golf Hall of Fame originally and then to have this special day, it just puts the icing on the cake,” he said.
The exhibit tells the story of Nelson’s life, from his introduction to golf as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Tex., to his 1945 season known as “The Streak,” in which he had 18 wins, 11 of which were consecutive, to the legacy of the 37-year old tournament in Dallas that still bears his name.
On display at the exhibit are the 18 medals Nelson won for tournament victories during the year of “The Streak,” as well as the original Iron Byron, a machine developed in 1966 by True Temper that replicated Nelson’s swing and is still used world-wide to test golf equipment.
“The exhibit is a true personification of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s mission to recognize and celebrate golf’s greatest players and contributors,” said Jack Peter, the Hall of Fame’s Chief Operating Officer. “We are grateful for the opportunity and assistance we received from Byron and Peggy Nelson, and the many others, who helped us tell the story of one of golf’s greatest competitors and finest gentleman.”
Personal memorabilia on display is abundant and includes the Katy Lake Trophy from Nelson’s first win in Fort Worth, Tex. in 1928, his original “Little Black Book,” where Nelson chronicled his performances starting in 1935, and a humidor given to Nelson from Tiger Woods at the 2001 Champions Dinner. In addition, the exhibit contains the ball and the 1 iron Nelson used to win the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia’s Spring Mill course, as well as the ball Nelson used in his 1942 Masters victory.
Nelson’s impact on golf extended in to various areas that can also be seen in the exhibit. In 1942, Nelson, in conjunction with the Haas-Jordan company, developed the first golf umbrellas produced in the U.S. and was soon made a vice president with the company. An umbrella-patterned golf tie that Nelson wore as special promotion for the umbrellas can be seen in the exhibit. In addition, a pair of shoes is displayed representing Nelson and Jug McSpaden’s influence on Foot Joy’s golf shoe in 1938.
Visitors can also see the cover of every tournament program since April 1968 from the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas. The tournament, founded by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, has raised over $75 million for charity since 1973, placing it at the top of all-time tournament contributors.
Byron Nelson: A Champion… A Gentleman includes more than 80 images from his life on and off the course. Most images have been provided to the World Golf Hall of Fame by Martin Davis, author of the book, “Byron Nelson: The Story of Golf’s Finest Gentleman and The Greatest Winning Streak in History.”
The exhibit is located in the World Golf Hall of Fame, which is at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.