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Nelson's win streak worthy of the ranch

Hall of Famer authors golf's most remarkable season, highlighted by 11 victories in a row.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 1999


By the time he reached the final round of the Canadian Open, Byron Nelson was, well, in the doldrums. This despite being tied with Ed Furgol for the lead.

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"My game had gotten so good," Nelson said later, "there were times when I actually would get bored playing."

Nevertheless, he pushed the malaise aside on Aug. 4, 1945, shot 2-under 68 (to Furgol's 3 over) and walked off with the championship -- Nelson's 11th consecutive tournament victory. The run was the centerpiece of professional golf's most remarkable season by one player. Nelson won 18 of 30 tour matches, and finished second or tied for second seven times.

The streak likely never will be surpassed. "Not with the way things are going today," Nelson told Golfweek in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the feat. "I didn't have as many interruptions back then as they would now. After a man wins three or four tournaments now, he would be bombarded by the press and by people and sponsors wanting him to do all kinds of things. Now I think somebody can play as well as I did, maybe better than I did, but it would be extremely difficult to win that many in a row because of the intense pressure."

Nelson began the 1945 tour season with the dream of owning a ranch.

He won three of the first nine events, started the streak by teaming with Jug McSpaden to win the Miami Four-Ball, then beat Sam Snead in a playoff at the Charlotte Open after Snead three-putted the final hole.

The Greater Greensboro and Durham opens followed, but when he set a record with his 263 in a nine-stroke win at Atlanta, people began paying attention. "Now they started talking about it, writing about it," he said. "There was no television then, so it was just what the writers were saying.

"They kept asking, "Well, you've got four (in a row); do you think you can make it five?' Then it was, "You have five; can you make it six?' I just told them things were going well and we'd just have to wait and see. But my concentration was so good. It was like I was in a trance."

The tour took a two-month hiatus after Atlanta. No matter. He won by 10 at Montreal, by two at Philadelphia (where he birdied the final five holes) and by seven at Chicago.

He won the PGA Championship -- five matches of 36 holes apiece -- by beating Sam Byrd 4 and 3, then took the Tam O'Shanter in Chicago by 11 strokes and the Canadian Open by four before tying for fourth, five strokes behind amateur Fred Haas at the Memphis Invitational. Nelson won again at Knoxville and ended the year winning three of the final five tournaments. His $47,609 in winnings in 1945 would be worth about $13-million today.

"I had a whole collection of goals, but the ranch was No. 1," he said. "It kept me going. Each win meant another cow, another 10 acres, a bigger down payment." He bought the ranch, 740 acres in Roanoke, Texas. He still owns it.


-- Information from Golfweek was used in this report.

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