IRVING, Tex. -- Tom Watson has cultivated a number of lifelong golf friendships over the years. But if there's one he tends to cherish more than any other, it was his 32-year friendship with the late Byron Nelson.
Watson recalled the way Nelson took him under his wing and helped him in numerous ways during his time on tour. It was Nelson's generosity and his friendship that made Watson so proud to receive the Byron Nelson Prize at the HP Byron Nelson's opening ceremonies earlier today.
"Having the opportunity to become a friend, stay at his house and learn something about my golf swing from him, but more importantly, about how to be as a person," Watson said. "That's what I'm grateful for, and I got in the right profession, I guess, because I had a chance to meet up with one of the greats who was greater off the course than he was on."
The award -- presented each year by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas since Nelson's passing in 2006 -- is given to a prominent professional golfer for their hard work and dedication to community service. Watson also received a $100,000 check for a charity of his choice. He decided to split the money evenly between three charities -- the First Tee of Great Kansas City, Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and The Bruce Edwards Foundation for ALS.
Watson was a staple at the Texas-based event during his years on the PGA Tour. While his game was more than worthy of the Byron Nelson title, he said he usually had an ace up his sleeve that gave him a distinct advantage.
"Well, I had a good guy over my shoulder looking at me and hoping that I was going to do well here in the name of Lord Byron Nelson," Watson said. "I think it gave me a psychological advantage stepping up to the tee with the rest of the players. 'There's Watson and Byron. We've got to beat both of them this week.'"
If a psychological advantage existed, Watson made the most of it. He won the event four times -- include three in a row from 1978-1980 -- and finished in the top 10 in 14 of his 28 starts.
-- Jonathan Wall