On a weekend when British royalty and the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle was on full display, I had the pleasure of spending time and lunching with a member of golf’s royalty, Peggy Nelson, the wife of the late Byron Nelson, commonly known as Lord Byron.
For the younger set, Byron Nelson is considered one of the seven greatest golfers of all time. On that list with Nelson are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Ben Hogan. It is interesting to note that Nelson, Hogan, and Sam Snead were all born in 1912. Just think — three of the seven greatest golfers of all time all born in the same year.
During my lunch with Mrs. Nelson, I learned things about Byron I had not previously known. Ironically enough, Byron and Ben Hogan were caddies at the same golf club in their early days.
Peggy said that most people felt that Byron’s win in the caddie tournament with Hogan in the field was the caddie moment Byron enjoyed the most. In fact, according to Peggy, Byron was far happier with the knowledge that he defeated Ben Hogan in the annual caddie boxing tournament.
Byron Nelson’s greatest year was 1945, when he won 11 consecutive tournaments, establishing a record that will never be broken. He also won seven more times that year, making it a whopping 18 victories in one season, another milestone that will never be eclipsed. But what is also widely unknown is that in Nelson’s record year, his tournament winnings amounted to only $55,000 and most of that was in war bonds that required a seven-to-10-year waiting period.
I also learned that all of Nelson’s accomplishments were in jeopardy of never happening. Byron’s mother had a rough time in the delivery room, with Byron weighing in at over 12 pounds. Labor had gone on for such an extended period of time that the doctor’s attention had shifted to keeping Byron’s mother alive. According to Peggy, after Byron was delivered, he was just placed on a table and was presumed dead. Peggy went on to say that it was Byron’s grandmother who came into the room to comfort her daughter and happened to notice baby Byron moving ever so slightly and announced that he was still alive. It was only then that the doctor’s focus shifted back to the newborn.
I’m sure Mrs. Nelson was tired of my many questions, but she certainly wasn’t tired of talking about her late husband, Lord Byron, so I asked her to share something that wasn’t common knowledge.
She said that the last time Byron played in an exhibition it resulted in quite a chuckle. Peggy said Byron was asked by a charity if he would play with the three highest bidders. He readily agreed because it was for a charity he supported and he believed strongly in giving back.
Byron showed up at the course to meet the three players who had successfully secured him as a member of their group. But much to Byron’s amazement none of the three had ever played golf.
What a foursome — three first-timers playing with one of golf’s greatest of all time. Needless to say, it was a long day for Nelson.
It was what happened next, Peggy said, that made Byron chuckle. As the group was saying their goodbyes, one gentleman told Byron that they had a wonderful time and that it was well worth the $250 that they had paid. Byron’s going rate at that time for charity appearances was at least $2000 but, being the kind gentleman that he was, he rationalized that whatever was raised was for a good cause.
As happy as the royal couple must be, they certainly couldn’t be any happier than I was after spending so much time with Peggy Nelson.