The Byron Nelson Classic takes on a special meaning this year. It’s the 50th anniversary of Nelson’s famed record run of 11 consecutive victories in 1945.
The Nelson presence will be felt both on and off the two courses where the event will be held next week at the Four Seasons Resort and Club.
He’ll be signing autographs for his new book, meeting and greeting the players and giving a lesson or two if needed, such as the instruction Payne Stewart received from Nelson before he won the Houston Open last week. Stewart hadn’t won since 1991 and Nelson did wonders for his confidence.
You can drop by the trophy case at The Sports Club to see some Nelson memorabilia. Or you can walk over and inspect his 9-foot bronze statue, showing him leaning on his putter.
There’s only one thing Nelson can’t do anything about: the weather. Only six tournaments in history - 1968, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1993 - have escaped weather problems.
The Nelson Classics have been played through three tornadoes, 11 heavy thunderstorms, nine days of heavy rain and other assorted problems of fog and gale-force winds.
The most significant change in the tournament this year will be the permanent addition of the resort’s second course, Cottonwood Valley. Since 1986, the tournament has been played exclusively on the Tournament Players Course.
In 1994, Cottonwood Valley was used under emergency conditions because of torrential rains.
The Cottonwood Valley was so well-received by the PGA Tour that organizers decided to play half the tournament on the course.
The 156-man field will use both courses for the first and second rounds of play Thursday and Friday. The final two rounds will be played on the TPC.
The Valley course has an interesting first hole. The green is in the shape of Texas, a bunker in the shape of Oklahoma and a pond that resembles the Gulf of Mexico.
Neil Lancaster, who won a six-man playoff in a rain-shortened 36-hole tournament last year, will defend his title. No PGA Tour event had witnessed as many golfers in a playoff.
The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, the organizing charity of the Nelson Classic, purchased a 15-acre tract of land north of the resort to create a new entrance. The area will feature a 900-foot bus lane to handle all bus traffic from nearby Texas Stadium.
The galleries will walk into the tournament and directly onto the Four Seasons Resort and Club grounds through twin Expo ‘95 tents.
These tents will feature exhibitors displaying golf gear.
“It’s going to be an exciting new look as you arrive at the course,” said Four Seasons Resort and Club manager Mark Herron. “The addition of the Cottonwood Valley course has met with a lot of positive feedback from the PGA. They really like the idea of playing there. We made some modifications. We converted No. 3, a Par-5, into a 475-yard par 4. It’s going to be fun to have action on both courses.”
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