For many years whenever I covered the PGA TOUR’s AT&T Byron Nelson in the Dallas area, I always felt excited anticipation, knowing that I would be in the company of the great Byron Nelson himself. Not only was he a great on the golf course, but he was also a real gentleman and very serious about raising money to help children through a partnership with the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and the Momentous Institute that focus on healing the social-emotional health of children.
Even though Byron is no longer with us, his presence is still felt. The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a prestigious men’s service club that has been in existence since the 1920s, is the backbone of this event.
In 1968 the Salesmanship Club joined forces with Byron Nelson to raise funds for the Momentous Institute, owned and operated by the Salesmanship Club. Over the years, over $160 million has been raised. Many thousands of children and their families have benefited and now have their lives headed in the right and sustainable direction. There’s no question that Byron Nelson could really play the game. In his teenage years, Byron and Ben Hogan were members of the same caddie yard at Glen Garden Country Club and played a lot together whenever they were allowed on the course. A young Byron Nelson defeated young Ben Hogan in the 1927 Caddie Championship. I’m quite sure no two finer players ever caddied together in the history of the sport. It would be like Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth playing on the same Little League team.
It was always a big honor for me to be in the company of Nelson during the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship and it was a sad day in the golf world when we learned of his passing in 2006.
The PGA Tour schedule has made big changes this year. The AT&T Byron Nelson has the honor of leading right into the PGA Championship, which, this year, is being played at Long Island’s Bethpage Black, often regarded as the toughest public test of golf in the country.
As we now head to the PGA Championship it must be noted that Bethpage Black is a big-time golf course. The last major tournament played there was the 2009 U.S. Open Championship. Two people that will never forget that U.S. Open are Lucas Glover, the winner, and Paddy Power, the loser.
But, just who is Paddy Power? Well, he is one of Europe’s largest legal bookmakers. In addition to penning this column for The Indy, I also broadcast golf to many networks in the UK, Europe, and other parts of the world, and in the lead-up to that 2009 U.S. Open, I was asked on many radio shows who I thought would win. As you might guess, Lucas Glover was my pick.
Well, to say that Paddy Power was upset would be an understatement. He was even quoted in the Irish Financial Times that because Bob Bubka picked Lucas Glover to win — which resulted in many of Bob’s Irish listeners placing wagers on Glover at odds 250-to-1 — he wasn’t too happy. The bookmaker lost a lot of money but those savvy listeners were rewarded handsomely. My return to Ireland later this year, as I travel to Northern Ireland for the Open Championship, should be interesting. I have no doubt that the happy betters will still remember their windfall. The trick for me will be how to avoid Paddy Power.
Tiger is very much in the mix this PGA and it could very well turn out to be one of the all-time-greats. According to long-time Southampton Golf pro Bob Joyce, due to the rather cool spring weather, the rough at Bethpage may not be as thick, gnarly, and difficult as the PGA would like. Still, I am sure it will be a very complete examination of the world’s best.
Now the tough part putting down on paper who I think will win. It is easier for me to pick winners on the radio because lots of people will forget who I pick, but once I put it in the paper I am stuck. Well, here goes. My outside-the-box selection is Gary Woodland. But, playing it a little closer to the vest as gamblers like to say, I will put some money on Dustin Johnson. Johnson with one major already on the mantle (the 2016 U.S. Open) looks good to me to add one to his list of accomplishments.
I hope to see some of you at Bethpage this week and as a golf fan all I really want to happen is for this title to be hanging in the balance with nine holes to go on Sunday.