The game of golf made them peers, but it was a kind gesture of consolation that sparked the 32-year friendship between Tom Watson and the late Byron Nelson. That's what makes it so special, Watson said, to receive the Byron Nelson Prize in Dallas on May 18th. The award -- presented annually since Nelson's death in 2006 by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas -- is given to a prominent golfer in recognition of his or her outstanding community service. In addition to the award, presented by Byron's widow Peggy before the start of the PGA Tour's HP Byron Nelson Championship, Watson will receive $100,000 to give to charity. He said he will split the donation between Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, The Bruce Edwards Foundation for ALS research and the First Tee of Greater Kansas City.
"Byron is one of the three people in the golf world who have meant a tremendous amount to me in my life," Watson, 60, told Golf Digest.com. "Not for golf reasons, so much, but just learning how to treat people. Byron, of course, was a great golfer, but he was a better person. And that's what the award is all about."
Watson learned about Nelson's kindness first-hand at the end of the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Watson, then 24, led the tournament after three rounds but shot 79 on Sunday to finish in a tie for fifth. Nelson, who was 62 at the time, approached the devastated Watson in the locker room after the round and offered some advice and words of encouragement. Watson said they were friends from that moment on.
-- Ron Kaspriske