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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Byron Nelson on the Streak

In 1945 Byron Nelson did something in golf that will never be equalled.  He won 18 times, including 11 in a row.  During that season he boasted a 68.33 scoring average--an average that was never beaten until the arrival of a ceratain Tiger Woods.  How did Lord Byron do it?

In his book entitled How I Played the Game, Byron provides his answer.  In 1944 he had won eight times in twenty three outings.  He averaged 69.67 per round.  But he also decided in that season to keep a record of his rounds.  He wrote:

    "I found two things that were repeated too often during the year, and they were 'poor chipping' and  'careless shot.'  The word 'careless' was written in there quite a few times, which often was due to    poor concentration.  Or sometimes I would have a short putt and walk up to it and just kind of slap at it and miss it.  So I made up my mind, like  new Year's resolution, that for all of 1945 I would try very hard to avoid a careless shot.
    One other thing I should mention.  My game had gotten so good and so dependable that there were times when I actually would get bored playing.  I'd hit it in the fairway, on the green, make birdie or par, and go to the next hole.  The press even said it was monotonous to watch me.  I'd tell them, 'It may be monotonous, but I sure eat regular.'  But having the extra incentive of buying a ranch one day made things a lot more interesting.  Each drive, each iron, each chip, each putt was aimed at the goal of getting that ranch.  And each win meant another cow, another acre, another ten acres, another part of the down payment.
    Finally, I had one other incentive.  I wanted to establish some records that would stand for a long time.  I wanted to have the lowest scoring average--lower than when I'd won the Vardon in'39, when it was 71.02.  And though I'd won eight tournaments in '44, I knew that the way some of these boys played, that number wouldn't stand up very long.  I also wanted the record for the lowest score for an entire tournament.  At the time the record was 264, held by Craig Wood and a few others.  So you see, I had a whole collection of goals I wanted to reach, and every goid shot I hit supported all of them..."

So we can see the importance in golf of two things--three actually--reviewing and assessing your play, having goals, and, in Byron's case, being incredibly talented.  We mere mortals may only be able to take advantage of the first two secrets to success.  But if we are honest about our play, and make goals that we truly desire to reach, we may just play harder, and better.

In case you think Byron had this incredible streak because it was '45 and lots of the top guys were missing because of the war; think again.  Snead played in twenty-six events and Hogan played in eighteen.  Byron Nelson was probably the best ball-striker that ever lived.  In fact, he tells the story of Bing Crosby following him at the LA Open.  Bing had said he would follow Byron until he hit a bad shot.  Bing followed him all the first round, and until the eleventh hole on the second round when Byron pushed a six iron into a bunker.  True to his word, Bing headed back to the clubhouse.  That's just how good Byron Nelson was.