By Will Martin
A few months short of a decade shall we go back in time with a perfect tie in to the week that shall be deemed the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament. One where the majority of the funds generated shall benefit the kids who most need it. A tradition since 1968 in North Texas and for many years a fixture in Irving, Texas. It remains to be seen if South Dallas shall indeed get the transfer of a long time fixture.
Election Night 2004 was an interesting one for multiple reasons. For starters the buzz was all about the Boston Red Sox having erased an 86 year drought for World Series droughts. Two more would come to pass in the next decade in addition for titles to the other three Boston teams.
There was also a very important vote put to the voters on that Election Night. Would we see a new Cowboys Stadium built in place of what was currently sitting in Irving, Texas? And if passed where would that new stadium be built? To this day I recall all the teasing I took for correctly saying that the Texas Rangers were about to get company in Arlington.
The fall of 2004 I was working alongside two gents covering Highland Park high school athletics. There was Girls Volleyball and Basketball we had the privilege of covering. Election Night the travels took us to FM Marcus High School out in the middle of nowhere. I got lost but somehow found the place.
The Lady Scots were in a playoff on the Volleyball side of things. With 0ne eye on the Election Results and another on the matches that were going on I was seated in close proximity to a Mr. Bill Wilshusen and John Stafford (Yes the father of current Lions QB Matt Stafford).
The parents of the Scots players were always gracious with their time. It just so happened on this night that there was royalty in the gymnasium that I would not have noticed had Mr. Wilshusen not nudged me. It seemed this person had a grand daughter involved in tournament play.
It’s an amazing dynamic when you spend a good part of your life reading about the life of a person who does great things in his line of work, even greater off the court of play. I knew about the deep seeded religious convictions, more taken aback at the amount of character said person emitted with his lovely wife by his side.
“You know who that is, don’t you? You’re a golfer, right?” asked Mr. Wilshusen.
“Hell yeah I know who that is. It’s Lord Byron with wife Peggy” while noticing how Mr. Nelson was walking with a walker. If memory served correctly he was about 92 years young at the time. I noticed how intently they were following the play of their granddaughter.
A long time ago I learned that you never rush a moment if it is meant to be. Never one for an autograph, more of a picture guy, even when the volleyball matches ended and I saw the Nelsons make their way towards me I slowly walked down the five rows of stairs and was ever concise and to the point.
“I’m going to respect your anonymity sir, but please note that YOU are the very reason I took up golf way back in the day when a younger man. That and a passionate ex-wife.’
‘Well, thanks young fella! I appreciate that.’ Chimed Mr. Nelson. Peggy emitted a huge smile and said, ‘Thank you so very much!’
Off they walked into the night. No picture, no autograph, nothing asked for, just a moment. I had a smile the rest of the night as Highland Park would win their playoff matches that night in Flower Mound. Once again an observation made by Mr. Wilshusen.
‘Willie, you look like you just saw your hero.’
‘Something like that.’ I said while continuing to maintain a smile of a cat who ate the yappy canary.
Now fast forward to May 2011 with the final round of the Byron Nelson-won by Keegan Bradley-that Sunday afternoon. Covering the event as media I see a familiar face. After seven years it was time to reconnect.
‘Mrs. Nelson good day, you may not remember me but back on Election Day 2004 I-‘
‘Yes, you came over to say hello to Byron and myself. I remember that very well!’ Remarked Peggy.
What the heck, if someone remembered something you did seven years prior, it couldn’t hurt to take a picture with the one and only Mrs. Byron Nelson, could it? Peggy was more than happy to oblige.
This week will mark my eighth time covering or just enjoying the Byron Nelson. I have seen time and again just how much the kids mean to the people behind the event. The Salesmanship Club and countless other charities. It was refreshing to see just how involved Mrs. Nelson and the city of Irving are involved with the yearly tradition, the yearly event, and the yearly fun and frivolity that is the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.
I’ll never forget all the pomp and circumstance behind a 16-year old kid from Dallas Jesuit in 2010 named Jordan Spieth. This week via a sponsorship exemption there’s another young man 17 years of age whom I’ll be keeping an eye on.
His name is Scott Scheffler and he hails from Highland Park. Proof that life has a funny way of coming full circle. The beauty of it is that the winner of the tournament shall pocket a nice paycheck, get a nice bearhug from Peggy Nelson, and provide a wonderful outpouring to the kids.
An all around situation win-win.
Here’s to a great Byron Nelson week. And yes, they did approve of that new stadium which opened its doors in June of 2009. Right where I said it would.