Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"The finest human being ever to play the game"

They called him Lord Byron, author of the most poetic swing in golf.

Golf legend Byron Nelson has died, at the age of 94.

Because we shared a common religious heritage, I heard a lot about Byron Nelson when I was growing up, and encountered many people through church who knew (or at least had met) him. He was universally spoken of as a kind, gentle man, and one heck of a golfer.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Nelson's success was the fact that he suffered from a weak blood clotting factor — a condition similar to, but less life-threatening than, hemophilia. This genetic anomaly kept him out of military service during World War II, but clearly didn't affect his ability to swing a golf club.

His skein of 11 consecutive PGA tournament wins in 1945 (a year in which Nelson won a phenomenal 18 tournaments overall) stands alongside Cy Young's 511 pitching victories and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as record unlikely to ever be contested, much less broken.

But for those who knew Nelson, it was his personal grace and modesty that marked him as truly great. He never boasted of his accomplishments, as stellar as they were. He lent his name to a tournament that generated millions of dollars for charity. (The Byron Nelson Classic is the only pro tournament formally named after a golfer, which, when you consider the number of legendary names in the sport's history, speaks volumes.) He was, by all accounts, unfailingly polite and generous with fans and fellow players alike.

I suspect we'll not see his like in professional sports in our generation.

My condolences to Nelson's family, and the members of his home church.

In other golf-slash-death news, Vijay Singh has died.

But not that Vijay Singh.

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3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

Little known fact: I am known as the finest human being ever to play MINI golf.

True story.

5:33 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

I have no trouble whatsoever believing that, Mr. Fab. :)

5:34 PM  
Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Condolences to his family at this trying time.

8:51 PM  

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