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1912 John Byron Nelson Jr is born in Waxahachie, Texas. Starting in golf as a caddy, he practised after hours, and at the age of 14 beat fellow caddy and Texan Ben Hogan. He turned pro in 1932, working at a Club and playing when and where he could. He built himself a new swing better suited to the new steel shafts which were fast replacing hickory, and is considered by many to be the father of the modern, athletic golf swing. Following PGA Tour wins in 1935 and '36, he won the first of his five majors (2 Masters, 2 PGAs and 1 US Open) at The Masters in 1937, setting a record first-round score of 66 which would not be broken until Ray Floyd's 65 in 1976.
In 1945 he set two records that still stand today (and several others that have since been broken), winning 18 of the 35 PGA tournaments he entered, with 11 of them consecutively. While some have claimed that his record was achieved against War-affected fields, this is patently untrue since the other two greats of his era, Hogan and Snead, also recorded multiple wins in 1945. He stands second only to Tiger Woods (on 142) in PGA Tour history with his 113 consecutive cuts made, and his final tally of 52 PGA Tour wins is the sixth best of all time. He would surely also have an even better major champonship record, had the cancellation of events during the War not denied him the opportunities when in his heyday.
Nelson retired officially in 1948 at the age of 34 to become a rancher, as well as later taking up golf commentary and founding the (HP) Byron Nelson Championship. 'Lord Byron' (a nickname much used in obituaries for his sporting, gentlemanly conduct) died in 2006 at the age of 94, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (above right) posthumously the same year. But perhaps his most lasting memorial is the 'Iron Byron', the machine still used by the USGA and many manufacturers for testing clubs and balls for conformity with the rules, a name bestowed in honour of the remarkable consistency of his swing.

 

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